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Watercress - Natural remedy of the month

 February 2009

Natural remedy of the month – Watercress 


watercressThe trouble with watercress is that we tend to use it as a salad food.

Those little green leaves are packed full of goodness but in winter, when we could really use an extra boost of health giving properties, watercress is usually left in the shops.

That is a shame because winter is the time when we really should be helping our bodies as much as we can, and there are some great ways to use watercress in hot dishes.

Watercress was one of the original “superfoods” – it is said that Hippocrates, the father of medicine, understood its benefits and located his first hospital beside a stream so he could grow watercress to help treat his patients. This was around 400 BC but it is thought watercress had been popular in even earlier times.

Since then it has gradually spread across the world. It was grown commercially in Germany in the 16th century and Napoleon was a big fan. The first watercress farm in the UK opened in 1808 near Gravesend in Kent.

The Victorians certainly knew a thing or two – with the development of the railway, huge quantities of watercress were transported up to the vegetable market in London’s Covent Garden where it was packed into bunches and sold like ice cream to be eaten by hand. It was probably our first take away food!

So what is so great about watercress? People like the taste, of course, with its peppery heat and very distinctive flavour, but it is the sheer goodness in each leaf that makes it really stand out.

Gram for gram, watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas.

It is also brimming with other essential vitamins and minerals and also phytochemicals. These include vitamins B1, B6, E and K; the minerals calcium, iodine, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and magnesium, plus natural plant compounds such as beta carotene and lutein and zeaxanthin which are so good for keeping eyes healthy.

The good news is that today the wonderful properties of watercress are widely understood, and as demand rises so production has risen to keep pace, so watercress is now readily available throughout the year everywhere in the UK.

It is not the easiest plant to grow. To propagate, 30,000 seeds are needed to produce around 3,000 seedlings. It is not simple to grow either as it requires a lot of water, a mature bed of watercress needs around 5,000 gallons per acre per hour.

But more watercress farms are opening up across the UK and increasing supply should keep the cost at reasonable levels.

In winter, along with using it as a garnish, there are lots of recipes that incorporate watercress. It can be used to make a warming soup, or added to sauces and pasta; or added to a stir-fry to add an interesting extra flavour. It can be finely chopped and added to scrambled egg, or why not steam a seasoned chicken breast and serve it on a bed of watercress?

Today there are lots of watercress recipes both on line and in cookery books, so don’t wait until summer to benefit from this wonderful super food.

More information on Watercress

Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.





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