Watercress: A Low-Cal Superfood

August 20, 2013


A sharp peppery food combining succulent stems and sharp-tasting leaves, watercress is a superfood.

The leaves and stems contain more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach, and more calcium than milk. They are also rich in folic acid.

Watercress contains more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals. One of the great aspects of this superfood is that different parts of the plant taste different.

This curious fact reflects the way in which the plant is grown. Watercress must be grown in a watery environment.

This makes its stems very succulent and cool.

The leaves are large and spicy because they contain mustard oils that are released when the leaves are chewed, making them hot and peppery in the mouth. Wild watercress was much appreciated by diners and cooks over the centuries who searched it out to add to their meals.

In Ancient Greece, the physician Hippocrates insisted on locating his hospital by a stream so that watercress could be grown to add to his patients’ diets. By Victorian times, there were farms that grew watercress on a commercial scale. Each day train loads of watercress would be transported for miles to be sold at market.

In 1861, when writing in London Labour and the London Poor, Henry Mayhew commented that “The first coster cry heard of a morning in the London streets is of ‘Fresh wo-orter-creases.’ Those that sell them have to be on their rounds in time for the mechanics’ breakfast, or the day’s gains are lost.”

Watercress was commonly eaten in sandwiches in those days, but often people would buy bunches of the spicy greens and eat them from the hand, just like an ice cream cone.

This was such a common practice that watercress gained the nickname “poor man’s bread”. Watercress had become a staple food, an essential part of the diet, and it has remained popular ever since.

If you’re looking to spice up your diet, packing on nutrients while turbo-charging weight-loss, look no further than watercress. It truly deserves its designation as a superfood.

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