When I was a kid I remember these old movies where the British upper classes would sit down for tea in some opulent parlor and have watercress sandwiches with their Earl Grey or Darjeeling. And I would ask myself "What the hell are watercress sandwiches?" In fact, "What's a watercress?" It wasn't until later on that I discovered the watercress plant to be a singular edible experience. Watercress is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia; and is one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by the human family. So it's been around for a while. And it's good for you. King Xerxes of ancient Persia fed it to his soldiers to improve their vigor. It was used by the English navy as a remedy for scurvy. It has a peppery, tangy flavor and is chock full of vitamin C, calcium and iron. It is also mentioned in the Talmud as an agent for stopping bleeding when mixed with vinegar, Not only that, a study conducted at the University of Southampton found that it may inhibit the growth of breast cancer.
Watercress sandwiches aside, it's prevalent in soups and salads. But you can use it as a puree for roasts. And other ways in sandwiches as well: substitute watercress for the iceberg lettuce; add it to burgers with onions; top your grilled cheese with it---the possibilities are endless. The recipe given below is an easy way to use watercress: just a simple watercress-avocado salad with some olives thrown in.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bunches watercress, tough stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
6-8 black pitted olives, halved
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. You can also use a jar or cruet: add ingredients and shake.
2. In a large bowl, add the watercress and parsley. Toss together with the dressing. Gently mix in the avocado and olives. Add more salt or pepper, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings.
photo: courtesy of STALLS - Buckland Apple Day