Watercress is an aquatic vegetable or herb that grows from Europe to Central Asia. Although it is mostly used as a decoration for some dishes, watercress can also be a main ingredient as it has a lot nutritious value and actually tastes delicious.
You can add it to your salads and sandwiches, and it can also be used to add flavor in soups, sauces or even flavored butter. Its hot peppery taste comes from the mustard oil in the plant.
The flavor is so strong, that it will stimulate your taste buds and digestion. However, younger leaves have less mustard oil, giving it a milder flavor.
Strangely enough, a 14th century French chef named Taillevent, who is the first chef to use watercress on his menu, served it alone as a cooling dish, as he wrote that this plant alone is used to refresh the mouth.
In fact, watercress was famous in the past. On spring when it was on season, watercress could be found in the market. They were sold tied in bunches. People would usually eat the watercress as it was for the same purpose for which we are eating ice cream nowadays.
Besides its culinary value, watercress has also a healing value. Having a significant amount of nutrients made watercress one of the most nutritious vegetables.
Its nutrients consist of minerals like iron, calcium and folic acid and also vitamins like vitamin A and C. This is why the French called the watercress soup “potage de sante” (healthy soup). Its nutritious value was also proven when there was one hospital that was build near a wild watercress growing area in a stream. They intentionally built it there so they could use it to treat the patients.
However, it is not wise to use watercress that grows wildly in nature because it may cause fascioliasis due to its growth near the animal waste that has been contaminated with liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica). This is why the cultivated watercress is a better choice since it was grown in a healthier environment where they use fresh water and washed gravel.
In Germany, watercress was usually eaten with meats, sausages and smoked fish. But you could also enjoy it with bread and butter in a sandwich, or you could serve it with fish as a complementary flavor to the rich tasting meat. Keep in mind that it also works well with eggs.
Photo Credit: sherimiya