Spring brings us some of the most elegant and delicate food, and watercress is one of the best! On our SW Wisconsin farmers’ land, it grows wild in the pure stream banks. Once a mainstay on American tables in springtime, it’s largely become a forgotten treasure. In northern Europe, where the popularity of watercress has never faltered, it is commonly found in Scandinavian salads, folded into cheese and spread onto British crackers, and wilted into French sauces. It’s time for us to re-discover and revive the wonders of watercress here!
Another good reason to love watercress- it is the #1 super food! In a recent study published in the CDC journal "Preventing Chronic Disease”, foods were rated by the density of their nutrients. Watercress had a perfect score of 100! --Next on the list: Napa cabbage (91.99), chard (89.27), beet greens (87.08), and spinach (86.43).
Be sure to find a way to incorporate the watercress in your box into your menu this week- it's the most nutritious produce you'll get all year!
Store watercress like other fragile leafy greens. Wrap them loosely with a paper or cloth towel, put into an open plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator. Rinse and pat or spin dry just before using. Good for about 3-5 days.
Tips for using watercress
Since watercress has a spicy/peppery/citrusy bite, it is delectable in a green salad, as a garnish on roast chicken, or in a sandwich or wrap. Think of it as tender, baby arugula.
When getting ready to use, it's often best to trim the thickest part of the stems off. I usually snip or chop these stems up and save for tossing into salads or on a pizza, where a little crunch is welcome. Sometimes I might use the stems in the dish or salad I'm preparing, but I like them separated and snipped, so they become like another vegetable that adds interest- instead of being an annoying dangling tail off the tender leaves.
Wilt with other greens and pile onto your grilled entrée, or put raw watercress on top of a pizza after it comes out of the oven and allow it to wilt into the hot cheese.
Add to a mild broth soup Gently stir some uncooked, rough-chopped watercress to a couple of cups of heated leftover vegetable or chicken stock. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or just until the watercress turns bright green.
Don’t overcook as the watercress will turn a yucky olive color.
Watercress Pesto would be delicious option; served over fish, as a spread, or tossed into pasta. Just whir a bunch of watercress with olive oil (drizzle oil into blender/processor until you reach your desired consistency) and add salt. If you want to get fancy, add a few pine nuts too.
The French puree watercress with cream and butter- Sauce Au Cresson– and serve it over fish.
I experimented with my own version of this French Watercress Cream Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, wilt about 1 c. of chopped watercress in a little butter (1Tbsp. or so) on the stove.
Add about 2 c. cream and about 1/4 c. white wine, season with salt and pepper, and simmer on very low heat for approx. 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest a few extra minutes to let the flavors meld. Delicious! Even better the next day.
Remember, don’t overcook, as watercress will turn an unpleasant olive-green.
Enjoy an Oscar Wilde Appetizer:
Combine and spread onto cucumber rounds or crustless small bread slices:
1/4 lb. goat or cream cheese
1 tsp. lemon juice and a bit of zest if you wish
1/2 c. minced watercress
Salt and pepper to taste
The #1 super food! In a recent study published in the CDC journal "Preventing Chronic Disease”, foods were scored by their content of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and other critical nutrients; those considered most important to public health.
Watercress was at the top of this nutrient-dense powerhouse list, with a perfect score of 100! Next on the list: Napa cabbage (91.99), chard (89.27), beet greens (87.08), and spinach (86.43). Kale was #15 (49.07)!
Liz Talley, Urban Graze
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