Sandy's Garden ... Cress

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My first day at school was in August, 1942.

There was a war on, my father was a serving soldier and seldom seen at home and my mother was caring for me and had a lodger billeted with her.

We lived in Perth in what was deemed to be a safe zone, not a target for German bombers.

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Many years later, I don’t understand why a city … yes, Perth was a city with a Lord Provost … which boasted large railway marshalling yards was not seen by the Luftwaffe as a legitimate target.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy SimpsonFalkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson
Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

But it wasn’t, and only three bombs were dropped near Perth during the Second World War. These fell harmlessly in a field atop Moncrieffe Tunnel.

I began my schooling travelling the two miles to and the two miles from school in a school bus, a journey undertaken in an unlit vehicle through very dimly lit streets during dark winter days, my school bag on my back and my gas mask slung around my neck in its carrying case.

What brings these faded memories to mind is cress.

Ailsa bought a small container of live, growing cress at the back end of last year.

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This, in turn, brought to mind the fact that we grew cress in my primary school to observe how seed germinated, grew, flowered and died.

Cress is ridiculously easy to grow and to care for.

This is seed firm Thompson and Morgan’s advice on growing cress – “Cress can be grown by thoroughly wetting (but not water logging) some tissue or cotton wool and sprinkling the seed over, gently pressing the seed in to ensure contact. If sowing into a container with 1-2 inch sides (2-5 cm) then stretching clingfilm over the top will ensure that moisture won't escape and it can stay on until the leaves get close to touching it.

"If you choose to grow the cress in something more ornate or fun (in the case of children's projects) then ensure that the growing medium does not dry out. Germination will take place quite quickly, sometimes within 24 hours, and young shoots soon appear. In 5 to 7 days, the shoots will be long enough to snip off and can be used in salads and sandwiches.”

What could be simpler? And your reward will be small leaves and shoots which can be added to soups, sandwiches and salads to confer a tangy flavour.

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You will be aware that egg and cress is a perennial favourite filling. And very tasty it is too, doubly so when a smidgin of salt.

Were you to eat 100 grams of salad cress you would be adding lots of nutrients to your diet, including vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin A as well as essential minerals like manganese, potassium and magnesium. I doubt, however, whether many (any?) people ever eat a hundred grams of cress; and, while it would be good for you, it certainly would not satisfy your appetite, for curly cress is 90% water.

Lazily, we have put a new (shop-bought) container of live cress … you can’t buy dried cress … on our kitchen window sill to enjoy the view over our garden. I wonder if it will yield two months’ worth of piquant flavour to further enhance Ailsa’s tasty cuisine?

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