There was a time when sandwiches in Britain came in far fewer varieties than today - but one that was always to be found was egg and cress. The combination of green, peppery cress with scrambled egg remains a true classic.
Garden cress plants
Garden cress growing from seed
Garden cress leaves and stalks
Probably Western or Central Asia.
Garden cress is native to much of Western and Central Asia, but is cultivated across the world. It is easy to cultivate as it tolerates nearly every climate.
Brassicaceae (cabbage family).
Garden cress and its relatives display a spicy aroma and a refreshing, peppery-pungent taste lasting only a few seconds. The aroma components are volatile and susceptible to both heat and moisture, so garden and other cresses are always used fresh and should not be boiled, baked or otherwise heated.
Botanical genus name lepidium derives via Old Latin from Greek lepidion, (diminutive of lepid-) "scale" or "flake", a reference to the tiny scale-like leaves. Species name sativum is Latin for "sown" or "cultivated". The Ancient Greeks used a plant with pungent leaves of Persian origin and the Greek name of the plant, kardamon was a loan from Persian. The word has survived in the form of kardamo as the modern Greek name of garden cress.
A related genus is cardamine "bitter cress", a family including cardamine pratense "cuckoo flower" or "lady's smock". The English term "cress" (from Old English caerse) may be derived from a common source with Latvian griezīgs "sharp", or from the Indo-European root gres "devour", Old Norse kras "delicacy", Sanskrit grasati "he eats" and Greek gran "gnaw".
Garden cress and other cresses are considered interchangeable in the kitchen and are popular in Europe and North America where they are used for spreads (especially those based on cottage cheese) and salads. Bread with butter and fresh cress leaves tastes delicious. Less frequently, chopped cress leaves are topped on warm dishes such as vegetable soups or scrambled eggs. Whenever used, cress turns an everyday dish into an exquisite delicacy.
In Europe, garden cress leaves are not commonly combined with other fresh herbs but they are compatible with the fines herbes of French cuisine and may be used together with each of them. Leaves or flowers of nasturtium are commonly used to flavour herbal vinegar and cress is also very good for herb sauces.
In West and Central Asia there are local culinary herbs with cress-like flavour for which Western cookbooks usually substitute garden cress (quite reasonably as garden cress actually stems from that region). It is used from Georgia and Azerbaijan in North-Western Asia to Iran in Central Asia and appears in Kazakh cooking as one of the few herbs supported by the Kazakh climate.
The disadvantage of garden cress (as with other cresses) is that the leaves cannot be dried and thus are rarely traded. Garden cress grows easily and quickly in any garden with minimal effort, the plant ready for harvesting as little as a week after sowing. For fresh garden cress, growers use three planting areas or pots and sow in rotation.