National Watercress Week
18th-24th May 2014
and Information about Watercress
Although botanically it’s classed as a
herb, watercress is probably best known as a salad vegetable and belongs to the
same family as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale. Its
name is a give-away clue as it’s an aquatic or semi-aquatic plant which
naturally grows in profusion near springs and running water such as streams.
One of the oldest known leaf vegetables known to man and can be traced back more
than 3,000 years, to the Persians and Ancient Greeks and is native to Europe and
central Asia. Not only is it mentioned in Cretan legend where it is said to have
been eaten by the god Zeus for fortification, but it has also been well
documented certainly as far back as 485BC when Xerxes, a Persian Emperor ordered
that his soldiers be given watercress to keep them healthy during their long
marches and as a preventative against scurvy and further when Hippocrates is
said to have grown watercress for medicinal purposes on the Island of Kos around
400 BC where he founded the first hospital.
The Romans too revered watercress and it is said that Emperors would eat it to
enable them to make “bold” decisions. Anglo-Saxons made watercress broth to
‘spring clean’ the blood and it is believed that Irish monks called it “pure
foods for sages” and survived for long periods eating only bread and watercress.
Watercress has seen a surge in popularity in the last few years, especially
since Liz Hurley (actress) mentioned in 2001 that she relies on watercress to
maintain a nutritious diet. More recently, (February
2007) the results from two years’ research carried out by the University of
Ulster showed it to have extraordinary medicinal qualities, in particular
relating to the reduction in DNA damage to white blood cells, considered to be
an important trigger in the development of cancer.
Furthermore, watercress contains beta-carotene, a host of vitamins (A, C, B1,
B6, K and E), iron (more than spinach) , calcium (more than milk), magnesium,
manganese, zinc, Lutein and Zeaxanthin, types of carotenoids that act as
antioxidants. Add to those the fact that it's low in calories and it's easy to
see why it has gained the accolade of being a "super food".
Watercress is used in many cuisines worldwide, from soups to stir fries. It is
also often used as a delicious edible garnish to meat, poultry and fish and can
be used as a salad ingredient much like lettuce.
You can read more about Watercress on the
Ingredient of the Month page which also features lots of
In the meantime, below is a very simple recipe
for a watercress sauce which goes exceptionally well with fish such as salmon as
Vegetarian Vegetables Savoury Sauce Accompaniment
Gluten Wheat Free Eggless
1 Bunch Watercress
240mlg/8oz Natural Yoghurt
1 teasp Lemon Juice
1 teasp Runny Honey
Salt and Black Pepper
Cooking and prep time: 10mins
Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Reserve 4 sprigs of the
watercress for garnish if desired and blanch the remainder in the boiling water for 3 minutes.
and drain very well, pressing as much water out as possible.
Place the watercress and remaining ingredients in a food processor
or blender and process until smooth.
Transfer the watercress mixture to a saucepan and warm through very gently,
making sure you do not boil it as it will curdle.
Excellent served hot with
poached or grilled fish.