Nasturtium officinale, the Latin botanical name for watercress, is a cruciferous herb found growing in the wild at the edge of streams flowing with sweet (pure) water, especially springs.
This mineral rich leafy green is highly prized among herbalists for its healing properties.
Once known as "Poor-man's Bread", peasants could maintain their health when whole grain wheat bread was not available.
When lemons and limes were not available, watercress was a common treatment for the prevention of scurvy.
In her book, The Illustrated Herbal Handbook for Everyone, world renowned herbalist, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, wrote:
"Use. Treatment of weak and impure blood, anaemia, rickets, of all nervous ailments, lack of appetite, weak eye-sight, failing or scanty supply of breast-milk. To strengthen the heart, cure infertility. Treatment of all internal tumours and cysts, including uterine cysts. For rheumatic ailments, stiff back and stiff joints in any part of the body."
Watercress is an important antiseptic herb still used today as a natural treatment for gingivitis.
More profound is the fact watercress is documented in ancient Turkey as a remedy and cure for cancer.
Modern herbal nutritionists recommend watercress as part of a holistic treatment for the herpes group of viruses, especially colds, influenzas and shingles.
Today, naturopathic medicine recognizes watercress's historical reputation in fighting cancer and allopathic medicine gives a nod to its health building properties.
Don’t be fooled by the pretty petite leaves, because watercress has a sprightly bite accompanied by a tangy note similar to citrus.
The combination teases the tongue and animates the senses.
Use watercress to garnish plated food creations instead of parsley; better yet, use both herbs together.
Instead of lettuce on your sandwich, use watercress.
Add this peppery herb to soups, stews and green smoothies along with chopped parsley.
Steam a bunch of watercress and enjoy as a vegetable to accompany your favorite main dish.
Best cherished in the raw, enjoy the bright taste of this lowly leafy green in a lovely salad that makes any meal simply elegant.
Watercress Salad Recipe
By Cat McMahon
A perfectly balanced combination of peppery watercress and a French style dressing make this delightful salad surprisingly delicious!
Prep Time: 45 minutes Yield:6 servings
- 1 clove garlic, sliced in half
- 2 bunches watercress, washed, chilled and stemmed; reserve stems
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- dash salt
1. Rub sides of salad bowl with cut garlic, and then set aside.
2. Mince garlic and toss into bottom of salad bowl.
3. Mince watercress stems, add to bottom of salad bowl and combine with garlic.
4. Add watercress leaves and oil.
5. Toss 15 times until all surfaces are covered with oil.
6. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7. Just before serving, add vinegar and salt, and toss 10 times.
8. Evenly distribute salad among 6 individual salad plates.
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