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Growing watercress at home

Gardens, self-sufficiency, watercress, home and garden, organic,

Recently I bought some watercress from a supermarket, and discovered tiny roots on the stems within a couple of days (during which it was in the refrigerator!). So I took some shoots out of the packet and placed in a bowl of water.

It responded so well that I read up the cultivation in order to do a better job, growing watercress at home.

It grows wild in the local streams, but these streams are a water supply for the local sheep (and worse), and wild watercress can harbour liver fluke - so don't eat it.

The ideal conditions for watercress are shallow flowing water, but still water will be fine provided you refresh it regularly.

watercress farm

watercress farm

Being semi-aquatic, watercress is well-suited to hydroponic cultivation, thriving best in water that is slightly alkaline. It is frequently produced around the headwaters of chalk streams. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown watercress exceeds supply. This is due in part to the fact that cress leaves are unsuitable for distribution in dried form and can only be stored for a short period.

However (in the UK at least), the packaging used by supermarkets using sealed plastic bags under some internal pressure (a plastic envelope containing moisture and pressurised (inflated) to prevent crushing of contents) has allowed the distribution of watercress. This has allowed national availability with a once purchased storage life of 1 – 2 days in chilled/refrigerated storage.

The plant becomes bitter to eat once it begins to flower (a survival mechanism!), so fresh new shoots (cuttings) are needed. It needs some daylight, but semi-shade is ideal.

It is supposed to be a good source of vitamins C and A, but probably iron, too, provided the water supply has some.

I'm presently trying still water on a mixture of soil and local beach sand (crushed sea shells) to provide fertility. Commercial growers add chemical fertilisers to water but I like to think soil and seashells contain extra minerals ...

There is an organic grower (John Hurd) in the UK.

organic watercress

organic watercress

Quote from John:

It contains more Vitamin C than fresh oranges and more calcium that cow's milk. It also contains iron and beta carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A, as well as being a good source of Vitamin E.

The crushed seashells seem a good idea for two reasons:

1. Watercress thrives in water on chalk (limestone / Calcium Carbonate),
2. It is a very good source of calcium. With the increase of allergies to cows' milk, and increased
osteoporosis in an aging population, alternative sources of calcium are increasingly important.

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Tags: Growing watercress at home : Gardens, self-sufficiency, watercress, home and garden, organic,

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