Watercress in Central Texas? Why not!

Ask Chris

Watercress is a fast-growing surface aquatic plant native to Europe. It has a tangy flavor like radish or mustard and is absolutely wonderful in salads.

It is also one of my wife Diane’s favorite vegetables.  However this plant – Nasturtium officinale – does have a reputation for being difficult to grow, so we decided to conduct some experiments at the nursery.

We bought some seeds and got to work. We had heard that germination was the difficult part, with sometimes only one in 3,000 seeds being successful.  However we had no problem here. They easily germinated in a seedling potting mix, and we transplanted them into 4” pots.

As our experiment grew, so did the watercress.

We discovered that this little water plant was as happy in water as in a pot that’s kept moist and well drained.

We decided to place a 4” pot of watercress in the gravel streambed of our disappearing waterfall feature at the nursery. What disappeared however was the streambed! The watercress has grown so much that it completely hides it. Clearly watercress loves running water.

An added surprise is the plant’s tolerance of heat. It has managed to thrive in our hottest summer ever. Even in 105-degree weather, the watercress continues to flourish and expand.

Commercially, watercress is grown in shallow streambeds. For a gardener interested in growing watercress in water, you can plant it in a water-holding container filled with gravel. The water will need to be poured out and refilled every two or three days.

This little water “weed” is loaded with vitamin A and C, iron, calcium and folic acid. It is also high in iodine and is known to have cancer fighting ingredients too.

Growing watercress is fun, healthy, tasty and nutritious. Come by the nursery and try some!

Happy gardening everyone!

If you have a gardening question, send it to iathyme@yahoo.com  (Please put ‘Ask Chris Winslow’ in the subject line.) Or Ask Chris Winslow. It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748

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