Please keep in mind that there are many delicious ways to eat Watercress. For example, you can throw a handful in your morning smoothie, make a pesto, add it to pasta sauce, and add it to your sandwiches/ wraps and soups.
And just like Okra or Malanga, one of the most nutritious greens to eat is Watercress. It is rich in fiber and also has a low Glycemic index. Grilled and pickled Watercress preparations are the best ways to lose weight with these healthy leafy green vegetables.
Notably, many people have gone on a 6-week watercress diet to lose several kilos. This low calorie cruciferous green vegetable contains proteins, vitamins A, C, and K as well as calcium, manganese, and potassium.
You probably have a pretty good concept of which foods are considered fruits and which are considered vegetables, at least in culinary terms. In terms of structure, taste, and nutrition, there are many differences between fruits and vegetables.
What is Watercress?
Watercress is an aquatic leafy vegetable that grows in cool, shallow streams. And while it’s Native to Eurasia, the plant’s medicinal and culinary uses can be traced back to ancient times. The nutrient-packed veggie has been tasked with treating everything from bad breath to blood disorders.
When Hippocrates founded the world’s first hospital in 400 B.C.E., he grew watercress outside for the purpose above. But, there are also quite a few old superstitions surrounding the vegetable. Whereby, Ancient Greeks believed eating watercress would make you witty, while Victorians thought it could get rid of freckles.
The watercress plant, which produces tiny four-petaled white flowers, is recognizable from its small, rounded green leaves. Since its pale green stems are hollow, they float in water. And though it’s small and rather unassuming, it’s a nutritional and flavorful powerhouse.
From its stems to its leave, the entire plant is edible. While you can eat watercress roots, you probably don’t want to—most people find them rather unpleasant.
What are the Benefits of Watercress?
Raw watercress tastes bright and fresh, though mature plants can become slightly bitter. Its somewhat peppery flavor is reminiscent of related vegetables, like mustard greens and wasabi.
The leafy green loses some of its pungency when cooked. It isn’t just a healthy addition to your salad—it’s kind of a rock star in the vegetable world.
In 2014, researchers at William Paterson University put together a list of 41 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” ranked by the amount of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, and other nutrients they contain.
The leafy green veggie-topped the list with a perfect score of 100. With this in mind, below are a few nutritional highlights of the superfood that you should know about.
- One cup of watercress provides more than 100% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin K, which is essential to bone health.
- Low in calories and high in nutrients, watercress is considered an extremely nutrient-dense food and may aid in weight loss.
- Since it’s packed with powerful antioxidants, watercress could help lower your risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- The vegetable’s high vitamin C content gives your immune system a necessary boost during cold and flu season.
Other known benefits include;
- Cancer prevention and treatment
- Lowering blood pressure
- Maintaining healthy bones
- Treating diabetes
- Providing dietary nitrates
- and much more
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Central database, 1 cup of fresh watercress weighing about 34 grams (g) contains less than 4 calories.
A single cup of watercress also provides:
- 0.782 g of protein
- 0.034 g of fat
- 0.439 g of carbohydrate
- 0.17 g of fiber
Consuming 1 cup of watercress can also help a person get the following nutrients:
- vitamin A, C, E and K
- vitamin B-6
Whether it’s out of season or your local farmers’ market is sold out, there are some perfectly adequate substitutes for watercress.
- Arugula is probably the closest match you’ll find for watercress. Its flavor is similarly mild and peppery, and it’ll provide you with a similar nutritional boost.
- Nasturtium leaves. Let’s be honest: If you don’t have watercress, you probably don’t have nasturtium leaves. But on the off chance, you do have access to some, the flavors are remarkably similar.
- Radish sprouts. Since watercress and radish sprouts belong to the same family, they have a similar peppery kick. Bonus points: They also look somewhat similar, so they’re easy to disguise in certain recipes.
- Kale. Though it’s certainly more bitter than watercress, kale is sometimes easier to come by. It’ll make an O.K. substitute in a pinch.
- Spinach. Another easy-to-find vegetable, spinach has a completely different flavor than watercress—but you can attempt to mask this with a few heavy-handed dashes of black pepper.
Mostly, people consume watercress in salads. However, a person can also incorporate it into pasta dishes, casseroles, and sauces.
It will sauté faster than tougher greens such as kale and collard greens because of its tenderness. It lends a mild, slightly peppery taste to any dish.
Ways to include it in the diet include the following:
- Throw a small handful into your favorite fruit juice or smoothie.
- Add it to your next omelet or egg scramble.
- Make a pesto using it.
- Chop it and add it to pasta sauce.
- Sauté watercress in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and season it with ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat it as a side dish or as a topping for a baked potato.
- Add it to any wrap, sandwich, or flatbread.
- Mix it into soup near the end of cooking.
For individuals managing a blood clotting disorder with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, it is important not to change their intake of vitamin K suddenly.
This is because vitamin K has an essential role in blood clotting and can interfere with some medications, including warfarin.
Despite these risks, watercress is a highly nutritious and versatile leafy green. People can include it as part of a balanced diet.
How to Store and Where to Buy it
Store watercress like you would soft-stemmed herbs: In a loosely covered glass of water in the refrigerator. This will keep it fresh for up to a week.
And while you technically can freeze watercress, you probably shouldn’t if you plan to eat it raw. Simply, because it will lose much of its flavor, and its texture will not be as lovely post-thawing.
But, if you’re planning to put it in a soup, however, freeze your watercress-loving heart out. So, are you ready to try your hand at cooking with this incredibly versatile, healthy, and tasty vegetable? I’ve got you covered.
From salad to soup, below are some of the favorite recipes of all time you can start with.
Sample recipes include;
- Creamy Watercress-Cucumber Soup
- Romaine, Asparagus, and Watercress Salad with Shrimp
- Turkey Panini with Watercress and Citrus Aioli
- Roast Beef Sandwiches With Watermelon Slaw
- Chicken-Watercress Wonton Soup
Though well-stocked grocery stores should always carry it, the leafy green starts popping up in farmers’ markets in spring.
Look for dark green leaves without bruising or browning and avoid the yellow, wilted, or those that feel slimy. People should store it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days of purchase.
If a person does not refrigerate vegetable juice that contains nitrates, this may lead to a buildup of bacteria. These bacteria convert nitrate to nitrite and contaminate the juice.
For these reasons, people should be careful to refrigerate juices, including any that contain watercress.