Upland Cress

Barbarea verna

Herbs gallery - Upland Cress

Common names

  • American Cress
  • American Winter Cress
  • Bank Cress
  • Belle Isle Cress
  • Early Winter Cress
  • Herb of St. Barbara
  • Normandy Cress
  • Spring Cress
  • Treacle Mustard
  • Upland Cress

Upland cress (botanical name, Barbarea verna), also known as land cress or American cress, is a biennial (occasionally perennial) herb that is indigenous to Europe, where it has been a preferred salad plant since the 16th century. The plant variety that is native to Asia, Ethiopia and the Near East, where it is a rapidly growing annual species, is known as garden cress. The upland cress belongs to the family Crucifer and genus Barbarea. Conditional on the ecological conditions, the flower stalks of this herb-like plant grows up to 30 cm to 90 cm (about 12 inches to 36 inches) in height. While this popular cress plant produces delicate leaves resembling the curled parsley, the foliage is not as dense, but slighter. In addition, there is another variety of upland cress whose leaves are not very lacy, but are wider.

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The leaves of the common upland cress are lobed and glossy, having a delightfully zesty, spicy flavor reminding one of watercress, which is more overpowering. Both the upland cress as well as the garden cress are similar to dandelions, as all of these produce a rosette having an extremely small stem bearing a cluster of crowded leaves that radiate away from the stem in a circle that is more or less flat. While upland cress gives rise to a flowering stem, both varieties of cresses produce diverging taproots. While the upland cress bears yellowish flowers, the flowers of garden cress are small, having a white hue (occasionally also red), and are aromatic with a spicy flavor. Garden cress as well as upland cress both bear flowers during the end of spring and also afterwards, provided their seeds are sown late in the season. Compared to upland cress, the other variety - garden cress, is more widely accepted and is quite simpler to cultivate. In addition, it is also possible to grow garden cress indoors for use during the winter. The sprouts, leaves as well as the young buds of garden cress as well as upland cress are edible.

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Parts used

Leaves, seed, oil.


There was a time when people employed upland cress in the form of traditional folk medication to facilitate healing of wounds. In fact, both upland cress as well as garden cress contain high amounts of iron, vitamin C, calcium. Both varieties particularly have extremely high vitamin A content. They are also used for culinary as well as craft purposes.

Culinary uses

In addition to being used in the form of a traditional folk medicine, cress is also employed for culinary purposes. It especially adds zing to soups, salads, egg preparations and sandwiches. For this, you need to include freshly obtained leaves, shoots and/ or very young flower buds of cress to these preparations. In addition, the cress leaves may also be used in the form of a garnish or in the form of a parsley substitute. If you wish, you may also fill wraps and pitas with the sprouts of both varieties of cress - garden and upland. In order to enjoy added spiciness, you may use young sprouts of cress together with mustard sprouts. If you so like, you may get rid of the roots of the sprouts prior to consuming them.

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As discussed earlier, upland cress is used as a suitable substitute for watercress. This herb may be used in salads, sandwiches or also cooked in the way spinach is prepared or used to prepare a wonderful soup.

It is possible to cultivate upland cress in any garden without any difficulty. Similar to watercress, this herb also has a preference for water, but it does not thrive well when it is submerged in water for a prolonged period of time. Land cress is a perennial plant that requires total sunlight and watering at regular intervals when it is cultivated in any garden. However, when the plant is grown close to a water source, it doesn't require frequent watering.

The young leaves of cress may be consumed raw, after cooking or also employed in the form of a garnish. Similar to watercress, the leaves of upland cress also possess a fiery and peppery flavour and they are very appetizing when added to salads. Provided the seeds of the herb are sown in autumn and provided with some protection during the winter months, you can obtain the leaves of upland cress all through the year. The seeds of upland cress yield a form of edible oil. In addition, the sprouted seeds may also be included in salads - making the salad more delectable and spicy.

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Craft uses

The stems of the attractive upland cress leaves may be used in arranging both fresh and dried flowers.

Habitat and cultivation

The ideal conditions for both upland cress as well as garden cress include a humid, fertile and properly drained soil or adequately decomposed compost. While the garden cress has the aptitude to endure a pH range varying from 4.9 to 8.0, the upland cress can tolerate pH levels in the range of 4.5 and 7.5. Although both varieties of cress have a preference for complete sunlight, garden cress also possesses the aptitude of adjusting to partial shade. On the other hand upland cress needs partial shade when the weather conditions are hot. When you are growing cresses in any garden it is important to ensure that the plants are watered frequently to keep them moist during the dry season.

Garden cress as well as upland cress are propagated from their seeds that are ideally sown during the spring immediately after the soil is prepared for the purpose. The seeds of garden cress should be sown at a depth of 0.6 cm (approximately one-fourth of an inch), while upland cress seeds need to be sown in a depth of to 0.6 cm to 1 cm (about 1/4 to 1/2 inches). It is advisable that you should sow the cress seeds densely and cover them slightly with soil. The upland cress generally takes three to seven days to germinate, while the germination of garden cress is comparatively sluggish. Replant the slender edible seedlings at intervals of approximately 10 cm (about 4 inches).

Alternately, you may also propagate upland cress by means of root divisions as well as cuttings undertaking during the spring. It may be noted that both upland and garden cresses are actually cool season plants and, therefore, their leaves have a less pleasant, spicier and more pungent flavour during hot seasons. The upland cress as well as garden cress wither away very quickly when the weather condition is hot. Therefore, it is advisable that you undertake plantings in a row once in every 10 days with a view to make certain a constant supply of the young leaves all through the season.

The good thing about cresses is that generally these plants are free from diseases as well as invasion by pests. In addition, garden cress and upland cress both have the aptitude to self-sow without any difficulty. You may also grow garden cress indoors in containers beside a breezy and sunlit window. When growing garden cress indoors you need to provide the plants with a wash either in a tub or a sink two times in a week to keep them moist. In order to grow sprouts of garden cress, sow the seeds densely as well as uniformly on an unsoiled and germ-free growing medium. Alternately, you may also grow the plant on dampened paper towels for this purpose. Maintain a cool temperature at approximately 10°C or 50°F and keep the seeds in a dark place for about 10 to 14 days. Get rid of the seeds or sprouts that may show any indication of being infected by fungus. It is worth mentioning here that the young cress seedlings are very much vulnerable to deterioration and, therefore, it is necessary to grow them on a sterilized medium. In case you are growing cress sprouts along with mustard sprouts, you need to sow the mustard seeds at least three to four days after sowing the cress seeds. This is owing to the fact that comparatively the mustard seeds germinate earlier than the cress seeds.

Although the upland cress grows biennially, the fact is that since it has the ability to self-sow so readily that when you have grown it once, it is very improbable that you will ever be without this plant.

As mentioned earlier, similar to the watercress, the leaves of the upland cress also possess a fiery and pungent essence and when added to salads, they make them very delectable. Provided you are growing land cress beside a wall that is facing the north, the plant will supply you with copious leaves right from the beginning of the spring till the autumn. In fact, you may also harvest small amounts of the leaves even during the winter. However, if you desire to have more cress leaves during the winter, it is advisable that you cultivate some plants in a place that receives more sunlight.


Chemical analysis of upland cress has revealed that this herbaceous plant is a vital source of several nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, folic acid as well as minerals like iron and calcium. The seeds of this species contain high levels of calories and protein, the leaves provide with a very good supply of vitamin A, vitamin C and folate.

Collection and harvesting

The sprouts of cress are harvested using scissors when their tender leaves just begin to have a green hue - generally 10 days following the sowing of seeds. It is important to harvest the young leaves of cress fresh prior to the herb beginning to bloom, especially when the rosettes of these plants are quite low to the ground. In case you wish to wait till the plants flower, you will notice that the leaves have turned hard as well as pungent. When the flowering stalks of the plant begin to blossom, you should stop harvesting the leaves because by this time, the leaves become extremely bitter for consumption. It is advisable that you always collect the flower heads of garden cress fresh as and when they are needed.

Also known as the American cress, you will find that upland cress has a preference for shady places. This attribute of upland cress makes the plant perfect for cultivation under the taller crops, for instance, the runner or pole beans, Jerusalem artichokes or sweet corn and also sunflowers. The taste of upland cress is very akin to that of watercress and, therefore, this herb is primarily employed in the form of a substitute of watercress. Nevertheless, upland cress may also be used in salads in moderation in the form of a substitute for spinach. Alternately, it may also be used to prepare a delightful soup.


From Michael Hinton - 2010
I received some seeds of "Kuten" from Uzbekistan which seems to be a traditional garnish in Samarkand. They are grown to small tender shoots and then pulled up like a green onion and munched with meals. I could not find out anything about the plant but discovered by accident that is a cress and tastes identical to Upland Cress grown hydro-ponically and sold at Safeway Stores with the roots attached. I had received some of the store plants and after cutting off the green shoots decided that if I planted the root stock it would grow another crop, which indeed it did coincidentally right next to the Kuten I had sown. After some July hot weather I tasted the Kuten and the Upland Cress and they were virtually identical in spicy radish flavour. They flavours of each blossoms with time and maturity with the young plants being more delicate.
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