Cress is a popular microgreen because of how easy it is to grow and the fact that it is one of the most nutritious greens out there. It even beats the Almighty kale in terms of nutrient density according to the USDA.
Its peppery taste and unique leaf structure make it a chef’s favorite, used in soups, salads and garnishes. For the home cook, watercress is great for making juice, smoothies, or as an addition to a salad mix to add some extra spice.
Everything you need to grow cress microgreens.
To grow Cress microgreens, you don’t need much. The only thing in the photo above that I did not mention below is an old seasonal shaker, which I use to get an even distribution of seeds. You can use your fingers or a glass and also get pretty good results.
- Container (I use 10×20 plant growing trays)
- Potting soil (I use a 50/50 mix of organic potting soil and coconut coir)
- Light (I use a 4 ‘ T5 CFL grow light when growing indoors)
- Seeds (I buy mine from Everwilde Farms)
- Spray bottle
Unlike many greens, garden cherry seeds are slimy. This means that they absorb water and form a mucous membrane around their hulls so that they do not need as much water as other seeds when germinating. Spray them very lightly and make sure your soil mixture is not too moist. You will have a low germination rate if you use too much water.
After dividing seeds even (use 1oz when planting in a 10×20 tray), cover with a blackout dome and mist more often, but with less mist per application.
After 3-4 days, your garden cherry seeds are sprouted and ready for some light. Make sure you keep watering, but don’t water your watercress too much. You will get mold and possibly drown out the fragile root systems, which will lead to rot or simply poor yield!
If possible, water from the corners of your containers instead of overhead. This will protect your microgreens from damage or being bent in strange ways. Also, the center of your container usually holds water better and needs less water than the sides.
If you grow cress to the microgreen stage, it will take about 8 days. If it grows to the True Leaf stage, it will take about 2 weeks. It’s up to you – there’s a visual, yield and taste difference, so try both and see which one you prefer!
When harvesting, be sure to use an exceptionally sharp knife (like this). You want a clean cut without tearing or pulling, that way you won’t pull up soil or seed husks. The simple rule to follow when harvesting is: harvest in a way that prevents you from having to wash your greens.
Washing microgreens is not only a great time sucking, but also reduces their shelf life by about 50%. There are special circumstances in which you need to wash, but my standard is to avoid whenever possible. I do this by growing in a clean, safe way and minimizing waste with my harvesting technique.
For cress, you want to harvest around 8-12 days. Make sure your greens are as dry as possible when harvesting – ideally Cork-Dry, as any moisture on them during storage is conductive to mold and rot. If they are a little damp, place them on a drying rack or towel until dry.