Enough Water for Watercress?

In the last few years I was in the UK before coming home to Australia I reckon the sales of watercress there probably quadrupled – everyone it seemed to be eating it.  I suspect this probably coincided with some study or other revealing a fabulous health benefit (and there are a fair few attributed to it) you get from eating it .   I can’t remember the details of the study but I do know that I love its flavour and the pepperiness it adds to a salad.

How I grow it

As I mentioned in a previous post on self seeding watercress comes up everywhere in my garden, I think I must have put a plant with seeds into the compost and I’ve been merrily spreading it around the garden ever since.


Watercress grows easily from seed, so if you have yet to establish it in your garden all you need to do is sow some seed in normal potting or seed raising mix and wait for germination.  You could sow seed direct but the seed is extremely small so I find it easier to control in seed trays or pots.  Seedlings can be planted out at any point.  Watercress can be relocated very easily, it sends down roots from its stems as it spreads so once you have a plant established it is easy to cut a bit off and replant it anywhere you want it to grow without disturbing the original plant.

In the photo below you can see the plants white roots – as long as these are retained it can survive in a glass of water until you either use or replant it.

Despite its name and what you may occasionally read, watercress grows well in normal soil (rather than in water) as long as its watered pretty regularly.  It struggles a bit in my Melbourne garden in summer but it seems pretty happy for the rest of the year.

As watercress spreads you do need to give it a bit of room.  If growing it in containers I would recommend growing it in something like a polystyrene fruit box which will give it a bit of space to grow into.

How I use it:

I tend to use watercress almost exclusively in salads although it also makes a nice soup.  My favourite is a variation on Rocket, Pear & Parmesan where the watercress replaces the rocket.

Watercress, Pear and Parmesan Salad

  • A bunch of watercress, picked over
  • A pear thinly sliced
  • 50g shaved parmesan

Watercress needs to be picked over before serving (I tend to discard the biggest stems although these are edible), the roots also need to be washed thoroughly as its easy to serve a bit of left over dirt with your lunch.

Dress the salad with a vinegarette:

  • One measure white wine vinegar
  • half a measure Dijon mustard
  • Four measures extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

*For a salad for one a measure equates to a teaspoon – increase the amount for a larger salad.

In the above picture I have also added some finely sliced spring onion, radish and avocado to the salad as I needed to use them up.  They went well with the other ingredients.


This entry was posted in Autumn Planting, Greens - Lettuce, Spinach, Beets, Herbs & Spices, Spring Harvesting, Spring Planting, Winter Harvesting, Winter Planting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Enough Water for Watercress?

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience to one of my favorites green edible plants! Currently, I have watercress in a plastic water tub that I intended to replant bought from Safeway. I want to experiment the roots that came with the watercress stems we already eaten, I hope this will grow here in Ballarat.
    I grew up with “watercress” in the Philippines, I missed it so badly at times. We just picked them from the side of the river and they love to accumulate more together with swimming tadpoles. Living in Australia for 6 years now, only in 2009 or 2010 I think that I have seen watercress sold/selling in Safeway market. I haven’t seen watercress either that were pre-grown or packet seeds at Bunnings Warehouse before but hopefully they might have it now as they are appearing in the supermarket.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Jennifer, I hope your watercress experiment works. If it doesn’t this time I would definitely try again with one piece with stalk and leaves still attatched and put that in water. If you email me at: Liz@suburbantomato.com with your address I would be happy to send you some seed. Alternatively New Gippsland seeds stocks watercress – you can order online at: http://www.newgipps.com.au, but if you aren’t ordering anything else it might prove expensive because of the delivery charges.

  2. Yvonne says:

    Hi Liz,

    I’m going to purchase the watercress seeds to try them this Spring and notice its botanical name is Nasturtium Officinale, not sure if this will do any good to our soils being in the Nasturtium family?

    • Liz says:

      Presuming your climate is similar to mine I think you could sow them now – I’ve got self seeded ones germinating in the garden at the moment. I haven’t noticed anything too detrimental soil wise but perhaps I’m not looking carefully enough. To be honest I wasn’t aware that there were issues with soil and Nasturtiums – I would love to know though. Although their nasturtium offincinale I’m fairly sure I read somewhere that they are not particularly closely related to the ones commonly grown for flowers. I do find Botanical names confusing at times…

  3. phil rodwell says:

    Thanks for the watercress info. Do you treat it as a perennial or an annual? My seedlings (in Sydney) grew in a half-hearted way for 12 months in a fairly shady spot and by the autumn they appeared to give up. They were in a large pot sitting in a deep tray of water. I have the feeling they prefer a cooler climate…all comments welcome!

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