How to Find and Use Watercress

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 [updated Monday, September 19, 2011]

The word "watercress" may bring to mind dainty tea sandwiches and ladies wearing hats.

The word "watercress" may bring to mind dainty tea sandwiches and ladies wearing hats. However, watercress has much more to offer. A dark and shiny green, watercress (nasturtium officinale) is a leafy green in the cabbage family. Its relatives include collards, kale, mustard greens and endive. Like many leafy greens, watercress is high in vitamin C and iron.

Watercress grows prolifically along small flowing streams. One should be careful about harvesting wild watercress, as bacteria and parasites present in these streams may be harmful. Fortunately, safe sources of watercress are available at many farmers' markets and grocery stores.

If you purchase watercress at the grocer or market, it will most likely come in a bunch. To wash it, leave the bunch held together by a rubber band and plunge into a sink or basin of cold water and swish around, then drain and pat dry on a clean towel. Watercress can be torn into pieces and added to salads for a peppery bite, or sautéed and served warm. Watercress grows almost year round in maritime climates, so anytime is a great time to add watercress to your dinner, salad, soups and, yes, even to your sandwiches.

Or try this delicious salad featuring watercress. The recipe can easily be adapted to include other seasonal vegetables as well.

- Misha Henshaw, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

Recipe: Radish, Jerusalem Artichoke and Watercress Salad

For the salad dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 1/3 pound Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 2 bunches watercress

For the dressing: Mash garlic and salt in a bowl to form a paste. Stir in vinegar and mustard. Gradually beat in oil. Add pepper to taste.

For the salad: Wash and slice Jerusalem artichokes into water to which lemon juice has been added. Wash radishes and keep in ice water. Wash watercress, remove thick stems; dry, and tear into bite-size pieces. Lightly dress watercress with a little of the dressing. Drain and slice radishes; drain and pat dry artichokes. Toss artichokes and radishes with remaining dressing and serve on watercress.

Preparation time: 15 minutes. Makes four servings.

Reprinted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (2003, MACSAC).

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