Wild About - Watercress


Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) is my treasure. I've got a secret location, fed by spring water, in which watercress grows year round.  The spring is cooler than the surrounding waters in summer, but relatively warm in the winter. So even now, during the longest, coldest, snowiest days of winter, there are still tiny fresh green leaves growing just below the surface of the water.  In the summer, it grows bushier and bigger, and I can take as many handfuls as I like. But it's now, deep in the dead of winter that I most appreciate my emerald gems.

Actually, my secret watercress spot is within blocks of my mom's place (but I doubt that even the three of you who know where that is would be able to find it).  I had the pleasure of taking my mom down to see the thick carpet of watercress one day last fall, and she was very excited to taste the peppery greens and to point out which leaves she wanted me to harvest for her.  But I don't think it sunk in how lucky she was until we were at the store one day, and she saw tiny bunches of sickly looking watercress selling for $2 each.  Thereafter, she was quite enthusiastic about her watercress patch.

You can find watercress growing in cool running water, and can be recognized by its sturdy oval leaves and tiny white flowers. It is crucial that you pick watercress from clean water.  Be very aware of what is upstream or possible chemical contamination. Parasites are a real danger, too. To help minimize the danger of consuming watercress that will make you sick because of the water where it has grown, only snip off the leaves that grow above the water.

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on clean wild watercress, you can use it in almost an unlimited number of ways.  It adds amazing bite to salads, a crispy crunch on sandwiches, and cooks up like a dream in soups. One of my favorite ways to eat watercress is in the style of creamed spinach.


Creamed Watercress

Started by roughly chopping a large bunch of watercress.  No need to be fussy, just get it cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, saute a diced shallot (or 1/2 a small onion) in lard until soft.  Add in chopped watercress and cook, stirring, until it has gotten wilty, dark green, and tender.   Reduce the heat to low, stir in enough cream to make a sauce, season with salt, pepper, and a few scratches of nutmeg, and let it bubble a bit until luxuriously thick.

Creamed watercress pairs nicely with game, such as deer peppersteak.

I'm sharing this treasure with the Hearth and Soul hop, and Real Food Wednesday, and Pennywise Platter.

Comments

  1. We use to forage for watercress with my dad. Then home to make a hot bacon vinegar dressing to toss with the cress and diced tomatoes. It was real good.

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  2. One of these days I am going to show up on your doorstep and demand you A:teach me how you do it and B: cook me some serious food!! (well a girl can dream can't she?) I cannot even think of a clean running water opportunity around here :oP Another wonderful Hearth and Soul link up from an Amazing Hostess!! thanks!

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  3. In my life, I don't think I've ever seen watercress. Then again, I only even started noticing ANY plants once I started foraging greens. Now I can't help but notice them everywhere!

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  4. Sadly I have never developed a taste for watercress, but your recipe looks so delicious I think I might try it again!! I have really fond memories of walks with my Grandpa when he foraged for it in a local park many years ago! He just loved watercress.

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  5. Oh, this is definitely a treasure! I wouldn't know watercress if it jumped out and bit me (unless it was in the grocery store....for shame). I love that your mom is getting involved more and more...what an awesome influence you are! Thanks as always for hosting and posting your beautiful journeys w/ the hearth and soul hp =)

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  6. Oh you are so lucky! When I think of watercress, I always think of Trumpet of the Swan where the swan eats watercress sandwiches at the Ritz....

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  7. I would gather bucketfuls of this when I lived in St. Louis, it grew by this wonderful spring.

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  8. We love Watercress and your creamed watercress looks very good. I have tried growing watercress in my herb garden and it does pretty good until the heat gets it. I will keep trying to keep it going all year round. Thank you for sharing your adventures.

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  9. I've lamented the lack of anything green on my plate for months. What shame to neglect leafy plants that don't need high tunnels in winter! Thanks for the education and inspiration, a few cows may get neglected during afternoons due to watercress . . .

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  10. Ha- turns out watercress DOES grow where I live... providing I find a source of water! Haha.
    My local book says that watercress is supposed to heal internal bleeding, liver issues, and to get rid of kidney stones...

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  11. I just love watercress. Mine grows in a large pot that catches some rain overflow. I need to put something in the water (maybe fish emulsion?) to feed it a bit though, so we'll have more.

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  12. Wow, I really loved hearing all of the stories about picking watercress <3 I don't think I've done a wild about that had quite so many who had picked it before. Do you know how fast my heart is beating?

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  13. Aw Butter!! Yep, I found a watercress patch near me, though my sources ARE unreliable-- I'm not entirely sure what's upstream. A shame because there are quite a few streams in the SM mountains that are relatively clean (I say relatively because I think our air quality alone would pollute them more than your lovely Rocky Mountain waterways)).

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  14. I was thinking of you today. I went out to my garden and discovered the dock starting to pop up again. won't be long and I will serving greens from my garden again.

    We have been doing a lot more hiking and I am definitely going to keep my eyes open for watercress.

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  15. I'm so jealous! You have dock already? I'm so ready for a bounty of greens! Sadly, though, it's just too early here (not that it stops me from checking).

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  16. Butter, I know this is an old post, but I wanted to say I'm so excited- we went hiking next to a creek today and I picked watercress! I'll be making creamed watercress for supper tonight!

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  17. I love watercress. Every year of this time, I always like to go to pick watercress. Thank you for sharing your story. I am looking for the safe way to eat fresh watercress, Does anyone know how to wash them with something? I pick them in the clear spring water but yet, I am still afraid of parasite. How could I test about it? Thank you.

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  18. Ani - I've heard of people soaking their watercress in water with a purification tablet, but have never tried it myself. Honestly, I've gotta say that if you have any doubt, cook it.

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