Watercress may be one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by humans, since it grows rapidly near streams, where people would have gathered for drinking water. With a hollow steam and leaves that are small and succulent (water-retaining), watercress adds a nice crunch as a salad or a garnish. Its peppery taste comes from the fact that it is a member of the Brassica family, the same as mustard greens and radishes. Native to Asia and Europe, watercress can be grown in the outdoors in the spring and early summer, but to be raised in the Northeast in hotter or colder times, must be grown indoors.
* Store in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to four days. To revive wilted leaves, soak in cold water.
* To prepare, separate roots from leaves. Rinse and pat dry. Trim away any thick fiber stems before using.
* Use in salads, on sandwiches, or as a garnish for soups. Watercress can also be steamed as a side dish.
* A recent study by the C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) recently found watercress to be one of the top “powerhouse superfoods,” meaning that, bite-for-bite, it is one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can add to your diet!
RECIPE of the week:
Winter Watercress Salad
Oranges aren’t local to New York State, of course, but they are in season right now in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona -- the United States’ leading producers. Pair the crunch and bite of watercress with the juice and tang of citrus to make this winning winter salad.
* 2 bunches watercress, washed well
* 2 T. sunflower seeds
* 2 oranges
* 1 scallion, thinly sliced on a diagonal
* 4 T. olive oil
* 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
* Salt & pepper, to taste
1. Toast sunflower seeds in a small pan for a couple of minutes until lightly browned and fragrant.
2. Peel both oranges. Juice one, then cut the other into bite-sized pieces.
3. For dressing, combine orange juice with scallions and season with salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil a little at a time until emulsified. Taste and adjust.
4. In a large salad bowl, combine watercress, orange pieces, carrots and sunflower seeds. Add a little of the vinaigrette and toss well to coat the watercress leaves with dressing.