W for Watercress

Full of vitamins and minerals… believed to be an aphrodisiac… a supposed cure for hangover… Sounds like a magic ingredient? That is what is said about Watercress!

Watercress is a semi-aquatic perennial plant that is a member of the Brassica family along with cabbage, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnips, and radishes. It has a spicy scent and a peppery, and tangy flavor when fresh. When cooked, the peppery flavor will slightly diminish. In addition to the leaves, the small clusters of fragrant white flowers and small pods with seeds are also edible.

Watercress has a long and storied history, with evidence of its use dating back 3000 years to the Persians, Greeks and Romans. 

Served to the Roman and Persian army, many believed watercress would help increase stamina, freshen breath, and prevent scurvy. The Persians had observed that soldiers were healthier when watercress was part of their daily diet. Roman emperors ate watercress to help them make ‘bold decisions’.

The Greeks were aware of the health benefits of watercress. When Hippocrates founded the first hospital on the Island of Kos around 400 BC, he grew wild watercress in the natural springs and used it to treat blood disorders.

The herbalist John Gerard celebrated watercress as a remedy for scurvy as early as 1636. And, according to the book James Cook and the Conquest of Scurvy 1, Captain James Cook was able to circumnavigate the globe three times, due in part to his use of watercress in the diet of his sailors.

It is an integral part of Mediterranean diets.

The U.S. Army planted watercress in the gardens of forts along the western trails, as food for their soldiers. It has been used as a breath freshener and palate cleanser, as well as for medicinal purposes. 

Watercress is one of the oldest known consumed leaf vegetables and is still one of the most widely used greens in the world today. It is available year-round, with a peak season in the spring through early summer.

Naturalized in pools and streams, watercress is easily found growing in the wild and is also commercially grown hydroponically. 

Watercress is an excellent source of vitamin K and contains vitamins A, C, and E, iron, magnesium, nitrate, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, and calcium.

Valued for its peppery flavor, Watercress is very versatile and is eaten both fresh and cooked. The leaves and stems can be used fresh as a garnish, mixed into salads, tossed into pasta, cooked into omelets, ground into pesto, or blended into juices and smoothies. They can also be used in wraps and sandwiches or sprinkled on top of pizza, casseroles, and mixed into sauces. 

Watercress soup has been popular in Britain sine the 17th century.

Watercress Soup


  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts sliced
  • 1½ quarts vegetable stock
  • Herb bouquet of two or three herbs like parsley, sage, thyme etc
  • 2 bunches watercress
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • Juice of ½ lemon (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Separate the leaves and tender stems of the watercress from any hardy stems and discard the hardy stems. Set aside some of the leaves for garnish.
  • In a largish pot, add the vegetable stock, along with the potatoes, leeks and herb bouquet. Cook till the potatoes are tender, for about 30 minutes.
  • Add the watercress to the soup and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes.
  • Remove and discard the herb bouquet. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture to the desired consistency.
  • Add the yogurt and lemon juice to taste and mix well. Adjust the seasoning.
  • Serve the soup sprinkled with watercress leaves and lemon slices on the sides.

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