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Edible Water Plants
Nasturtium officinale (water cress)
I am particularly fond of salad greens, as there are so many interesting flavours and colours which combine in a salad to make a quick and healthy addition to meals. An interesting herb you may wish to consider is Watercress (Nasturtium officinale). It is easy to grow providing you can give it the right conditions, and it is packed full of vitamins.Watercress likes to have wet feet, but it does not need to be grown in a pond. Providing it is somewhere sheltered and regularly watered, it will grow happily in the ground or in a pot. It is a perennial, but doesn’t like the very cold weather, when it will tend to slow right down and die back a little. However, come spring it will explode again.
If growing in the garden or in pots, it will benefit from feeding with a weak liquid fertiliser (eg. worm juice, compost tea) every 2 - 3 weeks.Apparently Watercress doesn’t like acidic soil and prefers slightly alkaline conditions; but we have never given it special treatment or limed it and it has grown well left to its own devices.
Watercress is particularly useful if you have a pond. Plant it on the bank, or submerge a pot into the water (so the water level is just covering the soil) and it will spread trailing arms out over the water. It makes a great cover for fish and frogs, and will benefit from the nutrients fish excrete.
Watercress growing in a pond means that even this area of your garden can be used for food production - talk about efficient!
Once it has spread, it will establish rootlets out on the new growth which will root if you break off a section of the plant and place it on top of moist soil. Watercress can also be grown from seed throughout most of the year (not winter unless you have a heat bed).
Plants grown in shade will have larger leaves and more lush, succulent growth. Plants grown in sun or not getting enough water will have smaller leaves and will tend to be bitter.
Add leaves to sandwiches and salads for a mild, peppery flavour. Watercress can also be used to make soup - I haven’t tried this yet myself; it’s on the bucket list!
There are so many great reasons for growing edible aquatic plants. There is a much wider variety commercially available now, and you don’t need a great deal of space to give them a go. It is a nice idea to incorporate a water feature or pond of some kind into a garden for its cooling and aesthetic qualities, and if you can make that area also a productive area for food - that’s even better!
Ponds can help attract and support a wider range of biodiversity in the garden - always something worthwhile from a natural pest control point of view. If you are worried about mosquitos, add a few native fish (like pygmy perch) which are excellent for controlling them. We have them in stock; and they are sourced from a local, licensed breeder.
Things like water cress, Lebanese cress (also known as Croatian cress - pictured above), Kang kong (water spinach), water chestnuts, edible taro, water parsley, water mint can be a great addition to your garden, and extend the range of greens you have available over summer. At a pinch, these are also worth growing in self watering pots, if you don’t have room for a pond. They do like wet feet so make sure the water reservoir doesn’t empty, and they will do well - providing you also give them a sheltered position without direct sun in the heat of the day and protection from hot wind.
Water Chestnuts (pictured below) are a little different in that it is the corm that is harvested in winter, when the tops die down. Water chestnuts do well in our warm climate in Perth, and their nutty taste and crunchy texture makes them a popular plant to grow. Usually, water chestnuts are available in September onwards, as they are re-shooting and actively growing.
So why not think about a pond as a source of food too? Check with us at The Green Life Soil Co - we often have a range of water plants available, depending on the season.
Until next time - happy (water) gardening!
Resources for Growing Organic Veggies & Herbs: