Sharing kinship with watercress and mustard, garden cress is relished for its tangy, spicy taste and aroma. From a medicinal standpoint, this native of Egypt and the Middle East provides a treasure trove of natural cures through the creative uses of its seeds, leaves and roots. Over the centuries garden cress took root in many foreign soils, carried by travelers who appreciated its peppery flavor and healing abilities.
What does it do?
Eaten as a green vegetable in spring salads, garden cress doubles as a source for home-made mustard, made from its tiny seeds. Coming to the table with an appreciable amount of vitamins A, C and E, along with calcium, iron and folic acid, garden cress gives the body what it needs to prevent a number of deficiency diseases. A boon for newly born babies, garden cress stimulates the production of breast milk. Crushed and mixed with hot water, this green medicine quells colic in the small child. Mentioned often in India’s ancient ayurvedic medical texts, garden cress is considered to be the most commonly used herb for household remedies. A paste made from the seeds brought relief to arthritic joints many centuries ago. Garden cress tea stimulates appetite, aids digestion, relieves lower back pain and stands ready to assist new mothers who need a natural mood elevator during the postpartum period; fully 80% of new moms suffer some degree of the “blues” following childbirth. A cold infusion of garden cress seeds is sipped slowly to address persistent cases of the hiccups.
About the herb
This erect annual stands between 6 and 18 inches high, drawing the hiker’s gaze downward by showing off its dainty pinkish-white flowers that bloom between June and August. The fruits are small pods, each containing a pair of reddish-brown seeds that become slimy when soaked in water.
Grow garden cress year round in your windowsill pots to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fresh produce. The seeds sprout in two to four days. Harvest the sprouts when they are as wide as a slice of bread, and make them part of your daily sandwich or salad. Note: use garden cress in moderation during pregnancy.