What is it?
Watercress, also known as Nasturtium officinale or ‘twisted nose’ by the Romans, is an aquatic plant growing near springs and streams. It belongs to the cruciferous (or brassica) family and is one of the oldest leafy greens to be consumed by humans. In fact, it is said that Hippocrates, the “Father of Modern Medicine”, positioned his hospital next to a stream so he could grow lots of fresh watercress to treat his patients in around 400 BC!
Like the other cruciferous vegetables, watercress is highly nutritious and even a small serving will provide significant amounts of vitamins and minerals (think vitamins K, C and A plus calcium and iron). Indeed, an ancient proverb says “eat cress, and learn more wit”, so it’s status as ‘brain food’ has been recognised for a very long time!
What to do with it?
Similar to rocket, watercress has a strong peppery and piquant flavour and will add great dimension to your culinary creations! You could go for Postman Pat’s favourite and try using watercress instead of lettuce for a peppery kick and more flavoursome sandwiches. Or toss together with grated apple, chopped avocado and a simple dressing of oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar for a quick and delicious salad. Go classic and try making a warming watercress soup, or whizz it up into a fiery pesto. Watercress also tastes great stir-fried, sautéed and in quiche!
When is it in season?
All year round, though peaks between April and September.