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Watercress & Cress Farming
The hollow stems of watercress are floating, and the leaves are pinnately compound. Small, white and green flowers are produced in clusters.
Despite the Latin name, watercress is not particularly closely related to the flowers popularly known as nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
Cultivation of watercress is practical on both a large-scale and a garden-scale. Being semi-aquatic, watercress is well-suited to hydroponic cultivation, thriving best in water that is slightly alkaline. It is frequently produced around the headwaters of chalk streams. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown watercress exceeds supply, partly because cress leaves are unsuitable for distribution in dried form, and can only be stored fresh for a short period.
Watercress can be sold in supermarkets in sealed plastic bags, containing a little moisture and lightly pressurised to prevent crushing of contents. This has allowed national availability with a once-purchased storage life of one to two days in chilled/refrigerated storage.
Also sold as sprouts, the edible shoots are harvested days after germination. If unharvested, watercress can grow to a height of 50–120 centimetres (1.6–3.9 ft). Like many plants in this family, the foliage of watercress becomes bitter when the plants begin producing flowers.
In the United Kingdom, watercress was first commercially cultivated in 1808 by the horticulturist William Bradbery, along the River Ebbsfleet in Kent. Watercress is now grown in a number of counties of the United Kingdom, most notably Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The town of Alresford, near Winchester, holds a Watercress Festival that brings in more than 15,000 visitors every year, and a preserved steam railway line has been named after the local crop. In recent years,[when?] watercress has become more widely available in the UK, at least in the southeast; it is stocked pre-packed in some supermarkets, as well as fresh by the bunch at farmers' markets and greengrocers.
Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, iodine, and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. Because it is relatively rich in vitamin C, watercress was suggested (among other plants) by English military surgeon John Woodall (1570–1643) as a remedy for scurvy. Watercress is also a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids primarily in the form of 16:3n-3(Hexadecatrienoic acid) at 45mg/100g.
Many benefits from eating watercress are claimed, such as that it acts as a stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It also appears to have antiangiogenic cancer-suppressing properties; it is widely believed to help defend against lung cancer. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Southampton found that consumption of watercress may also inhibit the growth of breast cancer. The content of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) in watercress inhibits HIF, which can inhibit angiogenesis.
It is important to note that Gadespring Cress Beds is still being developed & due to health & safety will only be available for access, other than to wildlife monitors & work parties, at organised events & at times when there is a weekend volunteer warden on duty. General public access is a possibility for the future & this could only happen once the wildlife hide is relocated after planning permission. Keep an eye on this website & blog, as well as the Box Moor Trust website, for details of open days & organised public events when you can visit & explore Gadespring.