Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
Watercress is an aquatic plant that thrives in moisture-rich environments such as alongside streams and ponds. It can be found growing in Europe and West Asia and was brought to North America with the arrival of European immigrants. In ancient times it was a popular vegetable for its flavour and medicinal properties, and in mid-16th century it was cultivated in Germany where it was often used to treat coughs and bronchitis.
Watercress can be cooked or eaten raw, and is a source of beta carotene, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, Vitamin E, B1, B2. When cooked it is a good diuretic and also has positive effects on the respiratory systems, kidneys and heart through relieving fluid tension. For these reasons it has been used across many cultures to cure colds and fevers.
Our watercress seeds were started indoors in mid april and transplanted into a single earthbox in mid-may. We planted it alone because it spreads out low to the soil and intertwines into a thick clump. To harvest we simply pinched off stems and leaves in a “cut-and-come-again” manner. They were used in our masa and beans for our tortilla project. It did not flourish as well as we had hoped since it remained small and dry. We believe this is because the environment of the earth boxes was not moist enough for the plant. While there is a constant storage of water it is not a constant stream of moisture which the plant thrives on in the wild.
Epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides)
Indigenous to Mexico and cultivated throughout Mesoamerica, Epazote grows wild in hot, dry and relatively poor soil conditions. It usually grows to be between 3-5 ft tall with strong-scented leaves 2-4 inches long.
This edible weed has many medicinal and nutritional benefits, but it can be detrimental in large quantities. Making a tea is a good way to get the nutrients from the plant, and can be especially helpful in treating parasites. Epazote helps to reduce gas, so it’s great to eat with beans 🙂 We add it to our mole recipes and to our tortillas.
We sowed epazote indoors in mid April and transplanted them in late May outdoors into two earthboxes. We felt the plants never reached their full growing potential as the plant and leaves were smaller than expected. The flavour was still strong and was a tasty addition to our tortillas. The reason the plants were spindly may have been that the dry-loving plants did not react well to living in a self-watering container where moisture is constant. When we allowed the water levels in the EarthBox to drop, the epazote started to do better. We have saved some seeds for next year and are hoping that the plant will eventually acclimatize to our rooftop environment.