Watercress, also known as yellowcress, is an aquatic flowering plant that can be found naturally alongside slow running water. It features hollow stems that float on the water, along with pinnately compound green leaves. It also produces small and clustered white and green flowers that frequently attracts insects.
Watercress is native to Europe and Asia and it was first grown commercially in 1808. Horticulturist William Bradbery grew them along the Ebbsfleet River in Kent, which is located southeast of England. Soon enough, Bradbery began selling them commercially. The people loved it and that’s when the crop started to gain its popularity.
And just like the other plants, their seeds can also be sprouted and they are also full of nutrition. They provide a fresh, strong, sharp, pungent, and peppery flavor, along with a nice crunch and heat that goes well on sandwiches, salads, and spreads.
Species: N. officinale
Binomial Name: Nasturtium officinale
- Watercress is one of the oldest leaf vegetables eaten by humans.
- The U.S. city of Huntsville in Alabama was locally known as the “watercress capital of the world” back in the 1940s.
- Meanwhile, the small town of Alresford in Hampshire, England, is known as the nation’s watercress capital. Not only that it is home to the annual Watercress Festival, but it is also home to the Watercress Line, a preserved steam railway line that has been named after the crop.
Watercress Buying Guide
Watercress can easily be found in the salad section of the grocery stores. However, most of them have large, round leaves and thick stems that are not tender and quite hard to handle. So, if you prefer the young, tender ones, it’d be best to grow them at home or head out to the farmer’s markets instead. Nonetheless, when you buy in stores, choose the ones with dark green leaves and perky bunches. Avoid the ones that are starting to wilt, turn yellow, or slimy. Meanwhile, you can also go for its cousin, upland watercress, if you want to avoid that bite.
Watercress Production & Farming in Texas
Watercress is a perennial plant. And just like any other sprouts, watercress sprouts are easy to grow. They are almost foolproof and they’re ready to eat in just a few days. Plus, they’re healthier than most of the other vegetables too. The only challenge that you will encounter when growing them indoors is that the soil needs to be moist at all times. To start, sow the watercress seeds in a small pot of clean potting mix, preferably with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5, and set the pot or container on a shallow saucer or tray filled with clean water. On dry days, you can cover the seed mix so that they’ll stay moist. Then, place them on a dark, warm spot such as the top of the refrigerator. After 7 to 10 days, you can start harvesting your watercress sprouts.
Some commercially grown watercress contains at least 50 residues of pesticides. Thus, it is best to buy organic watercress to reduce your pesticide consumption. Or better yet, grow them organically in your homes.
Watercress thrives in warm, humid environments. And while it is native to Europe and Asia, it is widely grown in the United States. The mild climate, chalky soil, and abundant streams of north Alabama makes it the ideal growing environment for watercress. Thus, there’s no wonder that most of the watercress in America came from this state.
Watercress is commonly packaged in plastic containers or bags and they are typically sold by the bunch.
Watercress can be eaten raw or cooked. It makes a great and nutritious addition from salads to sandwiches, or even as a bed for roasted or grilled meat. You can even pureé them and make a soup out of it! But, regardless of how you eat them, make sure to wash and dry them thoroughly prior to use.
Ideally, store watercress as you would on fresh flowers, except watercress should be then kept in the fridge. Arrange a bunch in a glass of clean water and loosely cover it with plastic. If you find that inconvenient though, you can store them in a plastic or ziplock bag. Regardless of which method you prefer, your sprouts could last fresh for up to 5 days.
When cooking watercress, treat it more like an herb as it also has that peppery and earthy flavor that goes really well on meat like lamb, chicken, and steak, or seafood like squid, trout, tuna, and sardines. You can also purée a bunch of watercress and turn it into a soup or sauce. As a matter of fact, watercress makes a good addition to pesto, which you can drizzle on top of pizzas or baked oysters.
Meanwhile, as a cruciferous vegetable, watercress contains isothiocyanates. This phytochemical is partly destroyed through boiling. However, the levels of carotenoid pigments are slightly increased. Thus, if you prefer to retain these phytochemicals, it is best to rather steam or microwave watercress than boil it.
Watercress is made up of 95% water. It’s also low in carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber. Furthermore, it is rich in vitamin K, accounting for 238% of DV, along with excellent amounts of vitamins A, C, and B6, calcium, manganese, and riboflavin.
Along with other cruciferous vegetables, they can decrease the risk of chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. On top of that, it also provides anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits. Thanks to the isothiocyanates that are activated when cruciferous vegetables are eaten and chewed. But, there’s more. Even though all the cruciferous plants provide this, broccoli sprouts can provide an insane amount, with up to 100 times more than its relatives. In addition, their sulforaphane is especially potent. Not only that sulforaphane can prevent cancer, but it can also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
When Are Watercress in Season in Texas?
To find out when Watercress are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.