This vibrant green, slightly bitter, but refreshing aquatic perennial with a growing range from Europe to Asia was very popular in ancient Greece where it was called kardamon. Greeks believed watercress could sharpen their intellect and hence their saying “Eat watercress and get wit.”
Watercress thrives in slightly alkaline soils and can be cultivated as hydroponics, but those grown under such conditions taste bland due to lack of diurnal temperature changes. It can grow to a height of 50 – 120 cm., and contains iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamins A and C.
Watercress is a diuretic, mild stimulant, full of antioxidants, helps in digestion, and may even prevent cancer.
Hypocrates, the father of medicine, born on the island of Lesbos, is thought to have decided on the location for his first hospital because of its proximity to a stream. He used only the freshest watercress possible for his patients.
Romans and Anglo Saxons, on the other hand, thought it prevented baldness, and ate copious amounts.
English cooks invented the watercress sandwich.
Watercress is believed to have aphrodisiac qualities like many other foods, ie. truffles, tomatoes, asparagus, but there is still no scientific and irrefutable proof that these claims are true.
In Crete, one of the Greek Ionian Islands, people swear by its powers. In the 1970’s, and Arab prince flew special consignments of watercress from England, supposedly to satisfy his harem.
For those who drink to excess frequently and end up with monumental hangovers, some suggest the consumption of one bag of watercress to help alleviate discomfort. Id nothing else, psychologically the sufferer will feel better due to its placebo effect.
Anglo Saxons, ever so fond of watercress, use it in soups to “spring clean” the blood, and the juice of this perennial is used in gravies to accompany roast meats. Undoubtedly, this was picked-up from French culinarians who invented this technique in medieval times.
Today, watercress is grown practically everywhere in North America, and widely available in grocery stores. If nothing else, use chopped watercress in salads and with hard-boiled eggs laced with brandy enhanced mayonnaise.
You will be surprised at the great difference in taste.