From: Stone_Haus_Farm.prodigy.com (MRS PAT E SWEETMAN)
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996 12:16:57 EST
Watercress is realatively boring...folklore wise. Ancient Greeks and Romans thought it improved the brain and later it was used as a salve for counds in medieval Europe. Being rich in Vit C it was brought to North America and now naturally grows in southern Canada and the USA. In Latin, the words "nasus tortus" means twisted nose. Apparently it gives off a punent smell that makes your nose wirnkle. I never noticed that...I will have to go down to the creek and check as soon as the snow showers stop. Native Americans used it as a liver and kidney treatment. There is no scientific evidence for this. For such a peppery flavor, it sure is historically boring...I like the herbs better when they keep your toes from falling off or turn a black horse white at the full of the moon or (ESPECIALLY THIS ONE) if you put it in your wallet, it draws money. Don't let me pick the herb of the week next time.
Altho' when we lived in California, my landlady used to put it on cucumber sandwhiches with purple cream cheese and it was very good. Bein form the midwest I had never had purple cream cheese before.
Well, so much for the fun part of the day...I need to check on the girls..still no lambs yet...I am very tired of lookin at the south end of a north bound sheep. As soon as we get one born, I will be able to relax.
For everybody I hope it isn't snowing in your neck of the woods.
From: Mindy <mvinqvist.MTA.CA>
Watercress (Nasturium officinale)
Sow in moist soil and keep well watered. Divide plants or root pieces of stem in pans immersed in water in spring. Dark silky green leaves, white flowers (summer cress) or frost-hardy brown (winter cress) varieties are available.
HEY RUSSELL - there is a related species in Australia called yellow cress (Rorippa palustris) which is a wild herb with crinkled leaves and yellow flowers.
The leaves are rich in Vitamins A and C, and are good raw or in soup or cooked as a veggie. Crushed leaves are applied as a poultice for rheumatism and gout, raw seeds used as a carnifuge. Also used as a cough remedy (but the book didn't say leaves or seeds - leaves I would think).
CAUTION: do not consume excessive amount (though I dunno why), GATHER WILD PLANTS ONLY FROM AREA OF CLEAR RUNNING WATER...PLANTS IN STAGNANT OR POLLUTED WATER MAY BE HOST TO DANGEROUS LIVER FLUKE (and if you saw the X-Files episode on the liver-fluke-guy you just don't want to get it!).
Pear and Watercress Soup with Stilton Croutons
1 bunch watercress 4 med. pears, sliced 3 3/4 c chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/2 c double cream juice of 1 lime
croutons: 1 oz butter 1 tbsp olive oil 3 c cubed stale bread 1
c chopped stilton cheese
Soup: Keep back about 1/3 of the cress leaves. Place rest of leaves and stalks and pears in a pan with stock and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 15-20 min. Reserving enough cress now to garnish, place rest of cress in pan, then immediately process mixture in food processor until smooth. Stir in cream and lime juice, season again to taste, then pour back into pan and reheat gently.
Croutons: Melt butter and oil and fry bread cubes until golden brown, then drain bread. Place on pan, top with cheese, then broil until cheese melts and bubbles.
Pour soup into bowls. Divide remaining cress and croutons into bowls. Eat.
Source of info: The Complete Book of Herbs ISBN 1-85967-011-3
From: Laurie Otto <lotto.PTIALASKA.NET>
Since I've been being so wordy lately, I thought I'd round out my messages with some comments on watercress. Not surprisingly, to grow watercress successfullly you need lots of water. I've tried growing it in my normal raised beds without much luck, since I don't keep them constantly wet. Watercress is what they call an aquatic perennial, and if you don't have a stream or a pond nearby, you can grow it in large containers that you keep very wet all the time, or with a dish underneath that you keep full of water. It is a member of the mustard family, and has a peppery bite. In full sun it gets unhappy; it also gets unhappy in deep shade - so a spot that gets some sun and some shade is best. Remember to use a large container, otherwise your watercress will not thrive.
In A Modern Herbal (by Mrs. M. Grieve, one of the most important herb books to own in my opinion), she says "The poisonous Marshwort or 'Fool's Cress' is often mistaken for Watercress, with which it is sometimes found growing. It may readily be distinuished by its hemlock-like white flowers, and when out of flower, by its finely toothed and somewhat ointed leaves, much longer than those of the watercress and of a paler green. ... Watercress is particularly valuable for its antiscorbutic qualities and has been used as such from the earliest times. As a salad it promotes appetite. Culpepper says that the leaves bruised or the juice will free the face from blotches, spots, and blemishes, when applied as a lotion."
In Feasting Free on Wild Edibles (Bradford Angier) he advises not to confuse watercress with the poisonous water hemlocks. He also says "Watercress prefers clean cold water, but with civilization spreading the way it is, you can't always be sure that those streams, pools, wet places, and even springs are not contaminated. A reasonable precaution is to soak the well-washed leaves and tender shoots in water in which a halazone tablet has been dissolved...halazone may be very inexpensively obtained from almost any sporting goods or drug store. These minute tablets work by releasing chlorine gas and therefore should be very fresh."
Given all the various precautions, even though I gather lots of other wild plants, I buy my watercress at the store or grow it myself so that I know what I'm putting in my mouth.
Watercress is, of course, excellent in salads. It is a good addition to sandwiches, also to scrambled eggs. I make a three layer scallop and halibut terrine, with one layer white, one layer colored pink with smoked salmon, and one layer colored green with sauteed and pureed watercress. This is really good and always gets RAVE reviews. The watercress adds just the right peppery bite (although I must admit that I make it with spinach when I can't get watercress).
In The Kitchen Garden Cookbook (Sylvia Thompson), she has a recipe for Savory Toasts with Watercress, Cheese and Pear. The recipe is reported to have originated at Locket's Restaurant near the House of Commons in London: Heat over to 350F. Trim crusts from small slices of white bread and lightly toast bread. Arrange slices on buttered baking sheet. Cover toasts with cress, then cover cress with thin slices of peeled sweet ripe pear. Cover the pear with thin slices of blue or gorgonzola cheese and bake until the cheese begins to melt (5-10 minutes) but don't wilt the cress. Season with freshly ground pepper and garnish with fresh cress.
>Is watercress an annual or a perennial, and does it grow in early spring? The reason I'm asking is that I have a little stream that runs by my garden from winter run-off, and it stays wet until about May or June, depending on when it gets hot here. Would there be much use in planting some in this area?
Watercress itself is a perennial. It does grow in early spring if my memory serves. (I remember my father pointing it out in early spring.) The other cresses that I saw in those catalogs were annuals.
I am wondering about some similar spots in the woods behind my house, they may even have some water in them all year long but I don't know the answer. If I get a better answer I'll make sure to post here.
From: dw00057.ltec.net (Dennis L. Whitehead)
I have successfully grown watercress (truewater) indoors. I, in fact, have some growing right now. I would recommend using a 8-inch or larger, unglazed clay pot. I use a soil of mostly sand (about 70%), some peat moss (about 15%), and some vermiculite (about 15%). I set the pot into a plastic container that fits closely around the clay pot, reaching almost to the top of the clay pot. This allows a little room to fill the plastic container with water or a dilute water and fertilizer mixture. The moisture seeps into the clay pot. You can train the plants to send out runners to cover the entire pot surface.
The result is a very moist, almost hydroponic, method of growing the watercress. I grow it under a large bank of fluorescent plant-growth lights. It is somewhat smaller than that found in the produce section of my grocery store. It tastes pretty good and is quite easy to grow.
For one reason or another (When I need space, it is usually one of the first to go as I don't use that much of it.), I've never had the watercress longer than about four to six months. Consequently, I have no long-term experience with the plant. Yet, it is so easy to grow in this manner that I don't mind starting a new plant two or three times a year.
Give it a try...
P.S. For outdoor growth, I'd guess you could do something similar--just place both the plastic container and its companion pot into the ground to buffer extreme temperature changes...experiment...