West of Roggwil-Wynau in the canton of Berne, watercress is cultivated in a targeted manner in a system that is unique in Switzerland. The vitamin-rich watercress grows above the water surface in around 27 basin-like streams with their roots in the sediment. "In Switzerland, our cultivation of watercress, amidst a great deal of biodiversity, is unique," says Werner Stirnimann, operations manager of Brunnbachkresse LLC.
Watercress can be harvested all year round, except in July and August -when the plant is flowering- and during heavy frosts. This is mostly done by hand, even in winter. Equipped with fishing boots, Stirnimann and his employees stand in the streams and cut the cress with lawn shears. When the watercress can keep its head out of the water, it thrives best. During the cold season, however, the plants must be regularly submerged under water and sometimes covered with crop protection nets to protect them from frost.View of the plant in the Bern canton / Picture: Brunnbachkresse GmbH
Since 1993, watercress from traditional Swiss cultivation has been certified organic. The BrunnBachKresse LLC was founded in August 2018. Every year, Brunnbachkresse delivers around 17 tonnes directly to the seasoning production plant of Dr. A. Vogel in Colmar, France. The remaining harvest (6-8 tons) is distributed in Switzerland via (organic) wholesalers and sold at weekly markets in the Oberaargau region. "We also want to preserve watercress production as a cultural heritage and enable an intensive interaction between agriculture and biodiversity," concludes Werner Stirnimann.