Do you remember growing cress in egg shells as a child? I think this is a classic childhood activity that everyone should try at least once in their life and it's the ideal place to start if you want your kids to get involved in growing food. Cress grows really quickly so if you have younger children it's a great way to show the process from seed to harvest without them losing interest before it's done.
It's been a while since I shared any gardening posts here on the blog and as growing food with our kids has been a big part our family life this year I thought it was about time I started blogging a bit more about it! We've grown quite a variety of foods this year, from courgettes, runner beans, and lettuces to carrots, tomatoes and butternut squash, and the boys have loved getting involved every step of the way.
Cress was our first project though, and after growing it in cups as part of the Sow & Grow project we took part in earlier this year, we decided to experiment with growing it in egg shells too.
Initially I was trying to work out whether it would be best to use cotton wool or compost to grow the cress in, but after some discussion we decided to try them both - a fun little gardening experiment! We had a guess at which would grow better, the boys guessed that the seeds would do best in compost and I agreed - read on to find out which one won further down this post!
First off we needed some egg shells. We get through quite a lot of eggs so it didn't take long to get them together, but if you want to get straight on with the project these recipes are all great for using up the egg insides: Breakfast Bagel Quiche, Mini Cheese & Tomato Omelettes or Easy Spanish Omelette. When breaking your eggs try to crack them near the narrower top of the egg so that you end up with a decent amount of the egg shell left to do your planting in.
Wash the egg shells out with warm water (you don't want any rotten egg mouldering away under your cress!) and pop them into egg cups or back into the egg box ready for filling.
As I mentioned above, you can use either compost or cotton wool to grow your cress in, or do what we did - turn it into an experiment and try both! Fill your egg shells with your chosen growing material. Scoop damp compost in to the egg shells with a small spoon, or soak cotton wool balls in water before popping inside the eggs.
Sprinkle a good pinch or two of cress seeds into each egg, spreading them around the surface of the compost or cotton wool as evenly as possible.
If you want to add some extra creativity to this activity, you can decorate your egg shells with googly eyes and marker pens. I let the boys loose with a pile of eyes and sharpie pens, and they had a loads of fun decorating their eggs!
We ended up with a couple of funny faces, a chick and a monster too as my 3 year old got a bit carried away with sticking on his eyes!
Once your eggs are decorated, spray the seeds with a little water to moisten them, then pop them onto a windowsill to grow. Check them each day and spray them with a little more water if they look dry.
Our seeds started showing signs of sprouting on day 2, by day 4 they were looking like tiny plants and a week after we planted them they were ready to harvest. To harvest your cress, simply cut the tops off with scissors and they are ready to eat!
So what was the result of our little experiment? Each child planted one set of seeds in compost and one set of seeds in cotton wool, and as you can see below, there was quite a difference in the final results. The cress grown in compost grew at different rates, with some of it getting much taller than the cotton wool cress seeds. The cress grown in cotton wool on the other hand all grew at an even rate so it all ended up roughly the same height. We felt as though the cress grown in cotton wool was a little more dense too - so maybe more seeds initially sprouted than in the compost, although it was difficult to tell as the compost cress was all at different heights.
We decided that although the cress grew really well and in a more natural way in the compost, cotton wool is the best material to plant cress in if you want to eat it - it's less messy and the seeds grow at a more even rate which much better for easy harvesting. This was a bit of a surprise, as we originally guessed that compost would be our winner. However, both sets of cress tasted delicious, so everyone was a winner in that respect!
Have you tried growing any food with your children? Here are 12 brilliant reasons to give it a go!
If you're looking for more cress adventures, how about growing a Cress Caterpillar like Chris from Thinly Spread, this simple but delicious Egg and Cress Sandwich recipe from Mel at Le Coin De Mel or this amazing Carrot Soda Bread with Egg & Cress recipe from Emily at A Mummy Too.
I hope you enjoyed this post, please pin it if you do! For more posts about growing foods with children, check out the Growing Food with Kids section here on the Eats Amazing blog or pop over and follow my Gardening With Kids Pinterest board for more inspiration from all around the web!