Like the brick rejected by the builders, watercress was once considered a weed. But was soon discovered to be very vital. In fact, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, has located his first hospital close to a stream to ensure fresh watercress to help treat his patients.
The plant grows rapidly near or on water bodies, mostly in slightly alkaline waters. It grows abundantly in the wild, but it is now commercially cultivated to cater to its ever-increasing demand. The plant can grow up to 4 feet if not harvested.
Watercress Rorripa nasturtium acquaticum is a member of the Brassicaceae family and is therefore related to broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, rocket, and radish. Cultivated in pure spring water, its health benefits have been known since ancient times. It is believed to have originated in Greece and remains an integral part of Mediterranean diets.
This leafy green vegetable is fortified with powerful nutrients. Watercress has a small, round leaf shape with an edible stem; these leaves have a dark green colour (but hydroponically produced watercress for commercial purposes have an even darker green shade). Also, watercress sometimes produces white and green flowers, this type is more bitter, but the young leaves are less bitter. Watercress has a distinctive peppery and slightly spicy flavour.
Watercress can be a flavorful addition to a salad or soup and is notorious for the peppery undertone it adds to the dish; however, it is not one of the most popular salad greens.
Watercress is low in calories but packs a vast array of nutrients
One cup (34 grams) of watercress contains the following: Calories: 4, Carbs: 0.4 grams, Protein: 0.8 grams, Fiber: 0.2 grams, Vitamin A: 22% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI), Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI, Vitamin K: 106% of the RDI, Calcium: 4% of the RDI, and Manganese: 4% of the RDI.
Watercress also contains small amounts of vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and copper.
People have named watercress a super-food because it can do many wonders such as cleansing the blood, lowering the risk of chronic diseases; preventing certain cancer; prevent osteoporosis; boosting the immune function; aiding weight loss, and protecting eye health.
Watercress Nutrition Facts
Uses of Watercress in Meals
Watercress can be used in a wide variety of dishes. It is advisable to either chew raw or lightly steam the vegetable to benefit from its active antioxidant compounds.
This extremely versatile vegetable can be: sprinkle on your salad; stirred into your soup near the end of cooking; turned into pesto by blending with garlic and olive oil; served with eggs, or used to top any dish.
- Classic Watercress Sauce
- Watercress Soup
- Watercress Pesto
- Watercress and Pea Risotto
- Watercress Dip
- Watercress, Mango and Pineapple Smoothie
- Watercress Omelette
- Bacon, Potato, and Watercress Salad
- Gingery Sautéed Watercress and Shiitakes
Substitute for Watercress
Watercress possesses undeniable health benefits and gives the dish a very unique taste. However, when this vegetable is out of reach, here are a few substitutes you can grab and carry one cooking.
Arugula is also commonly known as rocket, roquette, or rucola. Young leaves of this plant are used in salads, but the older leaves are used in cooking. It is used in many different recipes worldwide, including pasta, pizzas, and soups. It has a pungent, spicy, and peppery mustard flavour similar to the watercress. Not only the leaves but the flower and seeds are also edible. One good thing about arugula is that it can also be braised.
This substitute for watercress will provide the same peppery bite as watercress. Nasturtium, also known as the Indian cress, is an edible plant with brightly coloured flowers Both the flowers and the leaves of the nasturtium plant can give that flavour to your dish. Nasturtium typically offers an even more intense spicy flavour than that of watercress.
Spinach is a flowering plant popularly used in many cuisines. It is native to Asia. It is prized for its nutritional value too. Spinach leaves do not taste the same as watercress. Hence, while using as a substitute, add pepper to achieve the desired taste. You can mix spinach with few nasturtium leaves to get a more perfect taste.
Lettuces are low in calories but packed with healthy, beneficial nutrients. There are various types of lettuces to choose from for substitution. Lettuce is mostly used in salads and sandwiches but can be a pizza topping as well. Not great for soups and stews, but it can be used in stir-fry dishes with a short cooking time. Use as much lettuce as you would watercress.
Purslane is an excellent substitute for watercress, even better when eaten raw. If you prefer a leafy, succulent vegetable that has a bite, then purslane is the way to go. Watercress and Purslane have the same taste profile, making them a great substitute for each other in salads and sandwiches. Replace equal watercress with purslane. However, if you want a less leafy meal, use less purslane.
These plants are known to be one of the must-haves in diets because of their high nutritional value. Like the other plants, the young leaves will be less bitter, but the older ones will be very bitter, adjusting the proportion according to the recipe. It is best used in stews, soups, or salads.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
Can you eat watercress every day?
Yes, absolutely. As stated above, watercress is a miracle vegetable and very healthy. You can eat it daily, but not more than just one cup.
Is it safe to eat raw watercress?
Yes. Watercress is best eaten raw because, like most vegetables, it loses some of its nutritional content if overcooked.
Is cooked watercress less healthy?
No, cooked watercress is not less healthy. But as explained in the previous question, the raw vegetable contains the most nutrients.
Watercress is a wonder worker as a herb and a mouthful delight as a kitchen vegetable. It is also more than healthy. The Romans and Anglo Saxons believed that watercress could prevent baldness; some emperors believed it helped them take bold decisions; others believed it cured toothache, freckles, and hiccups.
This magic worker plant can be scarce. When it is unreachable, use the above-explained substitutes. Make sure to consider the best amount for your desired effect and taste.