Watercress is one of the most ancient of green vegetables known to man. A member of the mustard family, it adds a peppery note to everything from salads to soups.
CHOOSE bunches of watercress that hold their shapes well and are in no way wilted. The darker and crisper the leaves, the better – avoid bruised or slimy leaves as this is an indication that the plant is past its prime.
PREPARE watercress by placing it in a colander and gently rinsing it under cold running water.
STORE watercress stem-down in a glass of water, covered with a plastic bag, in the refrigerator or place the dry bunches in a Ziploc bag and chill.
DID YOU KNOW
• Watercress has more iron than spinach and three times as much vitamin E as lettuce. It’s packed with calcium, vitamins A and C, and is low in calories.
• The ancient Greeks believed that watercress would cure a deranged mind.
• Captain James Cook was reportedly able to circumnavigate the globe three times due, in part, to combating scurvy through the use of watercress in his sailors’ diets.
• Irish monks were said to survive for long periods eating only bread and watercress and referred to the leafy green as "pure food for sages".
• One of Britain’s best-known dishes, watercress soup, became popular in the 17th century when it was claimed to cleanse the blood.
• Victorians thought the plant was a cure for toothache, hiccups and even freckles.
• Watercress made front-page news in the summer of 2001 when Liz Hurley revealed that she relies on the aquatic plant to maintain a nutritious diet while trying to keep her figure trim.