This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
A name applied to the pungent herbage of several species of the Cruciferae, used as salad.
The leaves of the ordinary garden cress (Lepidium sativum), sometimes called peppergrass, have a pleasant pungency, somewhat like that of the water-cress, which makes the plant well adapted to be used as a popular condiment, served with salads, especially lettuce, and also for garnishing purposes. The quick sprouting habit of the seed is proverbial. Often the plants show above ground the third day after seed is sown. But if cress is wanted in its prime continuously, new sowings must be made every few days. Sow seed rather thickly in rows a foot apart, selecting any good garden loam. The reason that this useful plant is seldom seen in the average home garden is probably its liability to be attacked by hordes of flea-beetles which seem to have a particular fondness for cress pungency. But it is easily grown under glass, in flower pots, flats, or on a bench, in any light and fairly warm place and in any good soil. Grown thus it is usually free from flea-beetle injury, and goes well with forced lettuce. Seed is easily grown, either in the open or under glass. The plants are allowed to mature their seeds, are then pulled and the seed rubbed or thrashed out and cleaned.
There are slight variations in the form of the leaves, some of which are more or less curled, others more of the broad-leaved type.
Water-cress (Nasturtium officinale of the older books, but known as Radicula Nasturtium-aquaticum and Roripa Nasturtium in recent books), Fig. 1107, is a hardy perennial, and finds a congenial place in small, running streams, shallow pools or ditches, wintering well when covered with water. It is usually found freely, bunched, in most of our markets and at green grocers'. It grows readily from seed as well as from freshly cut pieces of branches, and soon spreads over a large area. The best product comes from clear running water.
Fig. 1107. Water-cress-Radicula Nasturtium-aquaticum.
Similar to water-cress in pungency is the upland cress (Barbarea prsecox), a hardy biennial. It also grows easily from seed sown in the open or under glass in ordinary soils and situations. The root-leaves are used for garnishing and seasoning, but they are not of the highest quality. See p. 454, Vol. I.
Other plants sometimes grown under the name of cress are Cardamine pratensis (p. 661) and Spilanthes oleracea (which see). The very pungent root-leaves of the former are said to be eaten, but apparently the plant is not cultivated for this purpose.