Watercress is a leafy green vegetable with a peppery, tart and slightly bitter taste. It can be used both raw and cooked in a variety of dishes, but is most often used as green lettuce. It has something to do with mustard and cabbage.
In the Brassicaceae family, which also contains kale, mustard greens and collard greens, watercress (Nasturtium officinale), often known as yellowcress or simply watercress and prominently Jalkumbhi in Hindi, is a vegetable cruciferous. This family also includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips and Brussels sprouts. Watercress is an aquatic plant that has round to slightly oblong, tiny to medium green leaves that are attached to hollow, crisp stems that are also edible. Being an aquatic plant, it is often grown hydroponically, which means that no soil is used and instead the plant is grown in a nutrient-rich liquid solution. This is a common approach for growing other varieties of lettuce, as well as strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
Also Read: Beyond the Lotus, Have You Tried These Edible Aquatic Plants?
Watercress is often compared to other green vegetables like arugula, broccoli, dandelion greens, and mustard greens because of its peppery, slightly bitter flavor. It is frequently used in salads where its tangy flavor stands out from other milder tasting greens. Green vegetables are often cooked, which helps to mellow out their fiery flavor. The same ingredients that give mustard and horseradish, which are in the same botanical family as watercress, their pungent flavor, also give watercress its peppery flavor.
Wash fresh watercress before using, especially if you’re going to eat it raw, as you should with all lettuce, even items in bags that claim to have been pre-washed. The easiest way to do this is to fill a large bowl with water, or even the sink, and swirl the leaves around in the water so that any grit or dirt settles to the bottom. The cleaned leaves should then be transferred to a salad spinner and wrung out until they dry, straining them and skimming the surface of the water. Now the leaves are ready to use.
Besides being served raw in salads, sandwiches, and smoothies, watercress can also be lightly wilted or sautéed, much like spinach. The leaves can be piled into casseroles, added to soups, lightly sautéed and combined with spaghetti, and sprinkled on pizza before baking. A traditional French dish, potage au cresson is a creamy soup made with potatoes and watercress. Similar to how watercress sandwiches are a staple for an authentic English high tea.
The flavor of watercress is typically peppery and spicy, with a hint of acidity and a mild bitterness. Riper leaves have a more pronounced bitter flavor and boiling tends to tone down the spicy flavor slightly.
Because watercress leaves and stems are so perishable, if you buy fresh watercress leaves in a bag, you should plan to store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days. If you buy fresh bunched watercress, you can undo the band that holds it together and put the watercress in a container in the fridge with the stems submerged. Fresh watercress can thus be stored for up to five days.