Saturday, 12 June 2010

Discover: Land Cress

    • Land cress (Barbarea verna), also known as American cress, bank cress, Belle Isle cress, Bermuda cress, early yellowrocket, early wintercress, scurvy cress, and upland cress, is a biennial herb in the family Brassicaceae. 
    • It is native to southwestern Europe, but is also cultivated in Florida. 
    • As it requires less water than watercress, it is easier to cultivate. 
    • Land cress has been cultivated as a leaf vegetable in England since the 17th century.
    • Land cress is considered a satisfactory substitute for watercress. 
    • It can be used in sandwiches, or salads, or cooked like spinach, or used in soup.
    • Land cress can be grown easily in any garden. 
    • Like watercress, it loves water, but does not do well when partially submerged for long periods of time.
    • Land cress is that rare find - a vegetable that actually prefers shade. 
    • Being shade loving makes Land Cress ideal for growing underneath a tall crop, such as Jerusalem artichokes, runner (pole) beans or sweetcorn, even sunflowers. 
    • It tastes a lot like watercress and is used mainly as a substitute for it, but can also be used sparingly in salads, as a spinach substitute, or turned into an excellent soup.
    • Land cress will tolerate moist soil and shady situations. 
    • The summer crop is best grown in light shade. 
    • It does best in fairly rich soils. 
    • As a member of the brassica genus which is prone to soil infections, for example Clubroot, it's important to use a minimum 3 year rotation plan.
    • Sow direct 2.5-5cm (½-1") deep in rows 15-18cm (6-7") apart, in July and August for supplies from autumn to spring and in March to June for a summer supply.
    • Thin to the final spacing of 8"x6" or 7"x7". 
    • The thinnings can be used in, for example, egg and cress sandwiches.
    • Flea beetle can be a problem in the early stages. 
    • Use crop covers such as fleece to prevent access.
    • For a more tender winter crop, transplant a few August-grown seedlings under cover.
    • First pickings can begin about 8 weeks after sowing. 
    • Pick outer leaves from young plants and heart leaves from older ones. 
    • Remove flower stalks as they appear and cover with cloches in autumn.
    • After the first year, you never need buy another packet of seed, as a few plants left to run to seed will seed themselves. You just need to transplant the seedlings to their new position.
    • Synonyms include Barbarea praecox and Lepidum nativum. 
    • Other common names include dryland cress, cassabully, and American watercress. 
    • A variegated form is available.

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