Today in Gardenprue we are going to talk about watercress and its cultivation . Although it could be considered as a vegetable from the garden, rather than as an aromatic or medicinal one, we place it here because of its condition as an aquatic plant and because of the more moderate consumption compared to a lettuce for example.
Its cultivation requires large amounts of water and it would not be easy to combine it with the rest of the garden vegetables on many occasions, so we will find a separate space for it.
AN AQUATIC PLANT IN OUR SALADS
The Watercress ( Nasturtium officinale ) is also known as watercress or cress water. It is a lively and underwater plant with a medium stem (50 cm), fine white roots and rounded leaves of an intense green color and a fresh and appetizing appearance. It blooms during late spring and summer, being an unimportant aspect for our purpose since what interests us about this plant are the leaves. Its origin is not far as in other crops. It is a European plant from the southern and central zone. The Nordic countries lack it due to the extreme climate that is favored there.
Watercress is a plant considered antiscorbutic due to its very high content of vitamin C. We do not have scurvy problems today, although it does not hurt to know that with less than 100g of this plant we will have our daily vitamin C needs covered. It is very common to see watercress accompanying salads with feta or goat cheese cubes. They are a very fresh and great tasting dressing.
If you are an inveterate hiker and you go out a lot in the mountains, you will know how to find watercress in shallow streams or very humid ravines . They are the usual places where they can be found in their natural state.
Something that is always said about watercress is that where there are watercress, the water runs clean and crystal clear . Watercress is an indicator that the water that feeds it is free of contaminants, which is why it is common to find it in high mountains, where livestock and human intervention is minimal.
Even so, it is not recommended to take wild watercress because although the water is not contaminated, it does not mean that it does not carry any bacteria from cattle that graze around as well as dead animals in a high course of the stream. Taking into account this last warning, we believe that it is best that you know the cultivation needs of watercress in case one day you want to try it.
Let’s go there.
GENERAL WATERCRESS CULTIVATION TIPS
THE IDEAL SUBSTRATE
The essential thing is to have a soil completely saturated with water . When we talk about root asphyxia in the vast majority of plants, it is precisely due to waterlogging and saturation of water in the substrate.
The watercress cannot live if it is not with the soil saturated with water. The pH will be around neutrality being even somewhat alkaline . Although one talks about the substrate, one could almost talk about the quality of the water in reality. Still, it is recommended that the soil has a good amount of humus.
From cool to warm climates. The intense cold of winter tolerates them but we have to protect the watercress from frost.
In an orchard or garden we must provide a shady place, without excessive sun exposure so that the substrate maintains the maximum possible humidity. If we have a pond with recirculation of water, it is an ideal place for its cultivation.
WATERCRESS COLLECTION AND CONSERVATION
One of the good things about watercress is that we can collect leaves as needed throughout the year, except during the flowering season . It is the only time when the leaves have no culinary value.
Consumption is always fresh . The less time you spend from the garden to the table the better. The deterioration is very fast. We can keep the harvested stems in a container with water in the refrigerator for a maximum of 3 days.
The leaves can also be frozen for later consumption. The maximum recommended freezing time is 6 months.