A genus of about 150 species of annuals and perennials found worldwide, especially in temperate regions. Several species are wild-collected or cultivated for their edible, often peppery foliage or radish-like roots. Best known is cress (Lepidium sativum), which is traditionally grown in baskets as "mustard and cress", though now largely replaced by salad rape (Brassica napus). ALso used in similar ways are: L. campestre (bastard cress, pepperwort); L. fremontii (desert pepperweed, mustard bite); L. latifolium (dittander), which was cultivated in ancient Greek times for flavoring; and L. virginicum (Virginia cress, wild peppergrass). The S American L. meyenii (Maca) is grown for its white, yellow, or purplish pear-shaped roots, which are made into an aromatic porriage, or used to flavor rum. Pepperworts have a piquant flavor, and are easily grown and nutritious. They contain pungent mustard oils, similar to those found in mustard, Sinapis alba (See, mustard).

Fast growing annnual with deeply divided three-lobed cotyledons and linear to pinnate or bipinnate mature leaves, 8-12cm (3-5in) long, borne on erect or sparsely branched stems. Tiny white or purplish-white, 4-petaled flowers appear in summer, followed by flattened, rounded pods, to 7mm (¼in) long, notched at the apex.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Broad-leaved cress
Botanical Name:
Lepidium sativum
W Asia; widely naturalized.
Well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.
By seed sown from spring to early autumn in cool areas, from autumn to early spring in areas with hot, dry summers, or at any time under cover. When growing as "mustard and cress" for salads, sow 4 days earlier than mustard so that the cotyledons or seedlings are ready at the same time.
Leaves are cut at seedling stage or when young and used fresh. Flowering tips are picked for salads. Seed pods are collected when unripe and used fresh or dried. Seeds are harvested when ripe and used whole or pressed for oil. Roots are dug in autumn and used fresh.
20-40cm (8-16in)
7-15cm (3-6in)
Has oval, undivided leaves, to 5cm (2in) long. Ready in 10-40 days; good for soups.
Has finely divided leaves. Ready in 10-30 days; good for salads and garnishing.
Is fast growing, with an excellent peppery flavor. Usually grown outdoors, sown in succession.
Syn. Barbeen, shahi

Has broad, toothed leaves, 5-15cm (2-6in) long; popular in the Middle East as a garnish and potherb.
Parts Used:
Cotyledons (seed leaves), young leaves, flowers, seed pods, seeds, roots.
A strong-smelling herb with a pungent flavor. Leaves have tonic and diuretic effects. Seeds are stimulant, laxative, and diuretic, with carminative and expectorant effects; they stimulate the uterus and increase lactation.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally, in Ayurvedic medicine, for skin diseases, hiccups, coughs, asthma, flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, debility (infusions of seeds), and externally for skin diseases, rheumatic pains, sprains, dislocations, and bruises. Not given during pregnancy.
Culinary Uses:
Fresh leaves give a piquant flavor to salads, sandwiches, soups, omelettes, and herb butters; also used as a garnish, like watercress. Flowers are added to salads. Fresh or dried pods are used as seasoning. Roots are used as a condiment, similar to horseradish.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg.259