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Watercress (Nasturtium Officinale)

A vegetable belonging to the brassica family, so related to the cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip, radish, Swiss chard and kohl rabi.

It has been recognised as a valuable salad plant since Roman times. The first recorded commercial cultivation was in Germany around Erfurt in about 1750, while production in Britain seems to originate near Gravesend in 1808.

Pure moving water from a chalk or limestone stream is an essential, as any pollution would endanger the consumer, and it requires a minimum of 4.5 million litres of running water per hectare.

These conditions are ideally met in Hampshire, in the valleys of the rivers Test and Itchen - the water here emerges at about 10 C throughout the year, so the crop can still be grown in winter.

Gram for gram, watercress provides more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin B than blackcurrants and more iron than spinach. It"s also a rich source of vitamin A, of folic acid (essential for healthy pregnancy) and of phosphorous, iodine, beta carotene and fibre.

Recent research has shown that it contains compounds known to be effective in the fight against cancer. Juicing is an obvious way to optimise intake. An 85g bag will make a cocktail-size drink.

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton French Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards. Small classes.

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