From Seed to Shop

Washed and Ready to Eat

Watercress is grown in shallow gravel beds fed by springs and bore-holes providing a constant flow of relatively warm pure chalk filtered spring water. Depending on the time of the year watercress is either grown from seed or grown from shoots left behind from the last harvest. At the start of the UK season watercress seeds are propagated and sown into the beds. The seed is very small indeed, around 4500 per gram. Pure spring water is introduced to the crop, gently at first and then in ever increasing volumes with a mature bed needing 7,000 litres per Ha per hour.

The growing time can then be anything from 28 to 70 days, depending on the weather. The warmer it is the faster the plants grow.

Watercress is a marginal plant and derives most of its nutrients from the water through roots embedded in the gravel. It also uses its aerial roots which sprout from the stem, to enable it to absorb even more nutrients.
On a winter’s day steam can be seen rising from the beds as the warmer spring water meets the cold air. On these days, the watercress characteristically “ducks its head” close to the water to keep warm.
When the watercress is ready for harvesting, highly specialised harvesting machines cut up to three tonnes a hour.

The crop is then transferred to highly sophisticated pack houses, located close to the watercress farms in the south of England, so within hours, the plant has been chilled, washed in spring water and packed into ‘washed and ready to eat’ bags.

Finally the watercress is loaded onto refrigerated lorries to be delivered in peak condition to your local supermarket/retailer.

Industry guide to good hygiene – Watercress 2017