I remember that when I was a child in the seventies our family would head off to my grandma’s for Sunday tea at least twice a month. The menu never seemed to vary and always included tinned fruit salad with Coronation Evaporated milk poured over the top, her best caraway seed cake, beloved of my dad, tinned ham salad and, for the little ones, egg and cress sandwiches made with best Mother’s Pride sliced white loaf and each round lovingly cut into triangles.
Today, l wouldn’t want to bring back the tinned fruit salad and ham, but would argue that in some ways perhaps my grandma was being quite modern by serving her grandchildren what we might today term “micro-leaves” in the form of the cress in those long-ago sandwiches. And at this time of year, when there aren’t very many home-grown fresh greens available to use in the kitchen, it’s fun to grow cress indoors on the windowsill.
Indeed cress can be surprisingly versatile – use to add a crunchy, slightly tart, texture to salads and sandwiches, as well as sprinkling onto homemade snacks never imagined by my grandma, such as hummus and baba ganoush.
Although I grow my cress on shallow dishes, it’s fun at this time of year to grow in eggshells. Save from your baking and carefully wash them out (you don’t want any stale eggy smells remaining!). If you have little ones in the family, then let them add faces to the eggshells with felt tip pen (beware of hot little hands squeezing those shells too tightly!) So they can watch their eggs’ “hair” grow.
Then fill your eggshells with a few torn up pieces of kitchen towel – four to five layers placed inside fairly loosely is about right – don’t press them down too much or they won’t absorb the water. Soak with water and generously sprinkle your cress seeds on top. Be sure not to let the kitchen roll dry out – check it daily if possible, and your seeds will soon be sprouting. Harvest (or cut the eggs’ hair!) Once the leaves appear and then discard the remains the stalks won’t sprout again.
*Article originally appeared in Bustle & Sew Magazine – find out more here.