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About Pepper Cress: Native to the Middle East, cress has been cultivated in that region since approximately 400 BC. Peppery and pungent, cress has the same tangy flavor that watercress does, being of the same botanical family. England, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia all produce this plant commercially for use as an herb, in salads, or in sandwiches. It is also eaten when sprouted, and the fresh or dried seed pods make a peppery seasoning formerly known as "poor man's pepper." In England, cut cress shoots are used in a traditional sandwich consisting of boiled eggs, mayonnaise and salt. Pepper Cress provides many necessary vitamins and minerals including iron, iodine, phosphorus and sulfur. Though this herb has various medicinal uses, experts recommend using it in moderation because of harmful side effects; expectant mothers in particular should avoid using an excessive amount of the leaves.
Pepper Cress Germination: Pepper Cress grows nearly anywhere, but it prefers rich, moist, well drained soil and full sun or partial shade. Since it is a cool weather plant and excess heat tends to give the leaves a bitter taste, it should be grown in the spring and fall in most areas. After the last spring frost or in late summer, direct sow the seeds 1/4" deep in rows 6" apart, thinning to 3-6" apart when the seedlings appear. If planning to harvest cress at a small size, the plants can be spaced 2-3" apart. Keep the ground moist for the best growth. For a continuous harvest, sow a new crop every 10 days. Cress also grows well indoors for sprouting, since it does not need soil for germination.
Growing Pepper Cress Seeds: Weed control and sufficient moisture are crucial to the healthy growth of cress. Since it has shallow roots, take care not to disturb them when removing weeds. A layer of mulch often helps conserve moisture and control weeds.
Harvesting Pepper Cress: Cress can be harvested at any size, from micro greens up to a height of 6". If part of the stem is left above ground level, new leaves will grow. The leaves should only be used fresh, since they do not dry or freeze well.
Saving Pepper Cress Seeds: Cress reseeds itself readily if left alone after flowering, but the seeds can easily be gathered. Soon after blooming, the flowers will begin to fade and the seed pods will develop. Wait until most of the pods ripen to a light brown before picking the whole cluster of pods. Since the pods will split open and drop their seeds when fully ripe, watch them carefully. Spread the heads out in a protected location away from direct sunlight to dry fully, then thresh out the seed. Store in a cool, dry place for 2-3 years.
Detailed Pepper Cress Info: Lepidium sativum. Also known as Garden Cress, Peppergrass. Biennial. 7 days. Zones 3-12. 11,300 seeds per oz. 12-24" height. 3-6" spacing. Produces green leaves with deeply cut, fern like foliage.
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