Watercress is one of the most densely nutritious foods in the world, easily foraged but often overlooked growing right under our noses. Watercress is an aquatic plant species whose botanical name Nasturtium officinale. Where I live, in a temperate zone in the US, it is easy to forage watercress everywhere that water slows down enough to support it. In other words, for us in Montana it is essentially a weed.
Watercress is also suited very well to deep water culture hydroponic and aquaponic systems, note that it prefers alkaline nutrient solutions. I have had great success growing it in my herb garden, though it requires support such as netting if in a flood and drain (ebb and flow) system, and the flood cycles must be frequent.
Cress tastes peppery and fresh, is great in salads to liven things up and also as a green in wraps or fish tacos! In my area wild onion, dandelion and watercress are all in abundance in the wild right now, so it is officially wild salad time!
Identifying watercress is fairly easy. It has hollow stems that float in water and the roots grow from the stems. Cress has opposite oval shaped leaves with a smooth and/or wavy border, and small white and green flowers that grow in clusters. Be sure to carefully identify a plant before consuming it!
Slow creeks, ponds with continuous flow, or other sources of slow moving but not stagnant water are great spots to look for watercress. It overgrows creeks and man made ditches so must be cleared. As a safety precaution be highly aware of your water source, as watercress can harbor very dangerous microbes when grown in the presence of manure. Think about what’s upstream, and always ask first before going on private property.
In the case of today’s foraging run, I went upstream from a man made waterfall and pond, and in the slow waters of the creek and the upper ponds edges there was an immense amount of watercress. This is a public nature trail, so foraging is fair game!
How healthy is watercress though? Why should I eat a peppery tasting weed from the creek? Why should I grow watercress? Well, besides its unique and quite awesome taste, it is one of the healthiest and oldest leaf vegetables known to humankind.
I have created a few infographics to keep handy regarding the subject, and you can click the images to find the infographics on Pinterest as well. One infographic shows the nutrient density values of the “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” as outlined in a study produced by the CDC recently, the other is a basic nutritional facts for watercress. I hope this information helps you take a moment this summer to indulge in the great taste and health benefits of some wild watercress. Enjoy!
Sierra is a music lover, social media manager, and legend in her own mind. When she’s not performing internet awesomeness for multiple businesses including The Rainbow Hub she likes to cook, longboard, travel, camp, hike, and write. She currently makes her home in the high desert of northern Nevada. Openly transsexual, run-on sentence offender.