Can you name,
An herb aquatic?
Sooooo delicious –
The flavor of,
Not tasting placid,
Has ascorbic acid,
What about A?
From the beta-carotene,
It’s been said,
To be a poor man’s bread,
Squeeze the juice,
Like you’re a slave,
And, the time you’ll save!
One of Hippocrates,
Good for humans,
A super food,
I try to include.
A delicious dish,
From The University Of Florida
Watercress — Nasturtium officinale
R. Br.1, James M. Stephens2
Whereas watercress belongs to the genus Nasturtium, the common nasturtium is quite different. Botanists also give Roripa and Radicula as alternative generic names. Cultivated watercress is known by a variety of common names, such as eker, biller, bilure, rib cress, brown cress, teng tongue, long tails, and well grass.
Watercress is a perennial plant grown for the pungent leaves and young stems which are widely used for garnishing and in salads. The smooth compound leaves have three to a dozen nearly round 1-inch-wide leaflets. Leaves and stems are partially submerged during growth. It was brought to this country by European immigrants, and now grows wild in running water and flooded places all over the U.S. Commercially, it is grown in unshaded shallow pools of flowing clean water.
Watercress does best in a moderately cool climate. Much of the nation’s winter supply is grown in Central Florida, but very few home gardeners attempt to produce it.
You may find some success at growing watercress if you have your own stream and know that the water is clean. Set aside a shallow portion, such as on the inside of a bend, for a patch of watercress. The site should be relatively flat with a slight slope away from the water’s supply source. For those without a stream, watercress may still be grown in small quantities. Fashion a plant bed by scooping out a 6-inch-deep basin and then lining it with 4-6 mil polyethylene. Fill the covered bottom of the basin with about 2 inches of composted soil, peat moss, or other regular potting mix.
Watercress can be grown from either seeds or cuttings. Small plants may be transplanted. Since the seeds are very small, broadcast them thinly over finely prepared compost or potting mix. Then lightly rake to cover the seed. In the final stand, allow 6 inches between plants.
Keep the plant bed moist, but not covered with water. If you are using a shallow portion of a stream bed, you may have to start plants first in pots, transplanting seedlings when they are 2 inches high into the water-covered bed.
After the seedlings appear, in about 5 days, keep raising the water level until the plants are growing in water. In a small arrangement, it is not necessary to have moving water. However, a slow flow of water would be desirable.
One must learn by trial and error how to fertilize watercress. Start out by mixing 1 cup of garden fertilizer into 25 square feet of planting soil.
About 3 weeks after the seedlings appear, the plants are ready to harvest. Following cutting, they continue to grow and even appear to become thicker in the bed. Cuttings (12 inches long) from the old beds may be used to start new beds. To harvest, cut the tops of the plants about 6 inches below the tips. Gather them into bunches as they are cut. Trim the butt ends so the bunches are about 4 inches long. Thoroughly wash with clean water, and place them into plastic bags to keep in the refrigerator crisper until used. Periodic sprinkling helps keep them fresh for about a week.
Watercress is a good source of vitamins A and C, along with niacin, ascorbic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, and iron. Although seldom used alone, watercress adds a zesty flavor to many other foods.
1. This document is Fact Sheet HS-684, a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Revised for CD-ROM: May 1994.
2. James M. Stephens, Professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.
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This delicious and natural “super food” has been grown commercially in the pure spring waters of southern England since the early 1800s.
It used to be a staple part of the working class diet, most often eaten for breakfast in a sandwich. If the family was too poor to buy bread they ate it by itself and so watercress became known as the “poor man’s bread.”
Street sellers would then buy it from the market and add their own value to the watercress by forming it into bunches. In those days, bunches were handheld and eaten ice-cream cone style.
The harvesting of watercress was a labour intensive task and in the days before rubber boots, the workers wore thigh length leather boots carefully dubbined against the damp and hob nailed to give a grip on the base of the watercress bed. Even so they were not damp-proof and every morning men would wrap hessian strips around their feet and legs to absorb the moisture and prevent chafing.
The ancient Greeks called watercress kardamon; they believed it could brighten their intellect, hence their proverb “Eat watercress and get wit.”
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is thought to have decided on the location for his first hospital because of its proximity to a stream so he could use only the freshest watercress to treat his patients.
Philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon (1561-1626) claimed it could restore a youthful bloom to women.
Romans and Anglo Saxons ate it to prevent baldness.
The Egyptian Pharoahs served freshly squeezed watercress juice to their slaves each morning and afternoon in order to increase their productivity.
Watercress is believed by many to be an aphrodisiac. In Crete, islanders swear by its powers and ancient recipes are handed down from one generation to the next. In the 1970s, an Arab prince was reputed to have had special consignments flown out from the UK, presumably to help him satisfy his harem! And in Hampshire its special powers are part of folklore.
Eating a bag of watercress is said to be a good cure for a hang-over.
According to Cretan legend watercress grew in the springs of the Dikton Cave on Crete where the god Zeus is said to have eaten the plant to fortify himself against his murderous father Cronos.
Roman emperors ate it to help them make ‘bold decisions.’
Anglo-Saxons swore by watercress potage to ’spring clean’ the blood.
Irish monks were said to survive for long periods eating only bread and watercress and referred to watercress as ‘pure food for sages.’
The juice pressed from watercress was used for gravies to accompany roast meats in medieval France.
The herbalist John Gerard extolled watercress as an anti-scorbutic (remedy for scurvy) as early as 1636. No doubt in those days it was far easier to come by than oranges - a foreign extravagance.
One of Britain’s best known dishes, watercress soup, became very 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 was often eaten in-between courses to cleanse the palate.
Watercress was promoted during the First World War as an important health giving home grown food.
In the 1960s, the strongest demand for watercress came from the north, where whatever the family income, high tea reigned supreme.
It is a well-known fact that Liz Hurley was a follower of the watercress diet, but more recently Sex Pistol star John Lydon was seen to enthuse about watercress soup recipes with fellow participants of ‘I’m a Celebrity?Get Me Out of Here!’
Watercress is mentioned so often as an ingredient in detox vegetable juice recipes and as a cure for a variety of ills, that it could virtually be viewed as a staple part of the regime for those wishing to juice their way to health.