Watercress is a sneaky little green. Oh, sure, it looks like an innocent bunch of tender, bright green leaves, but two bites in and KAPOW! You're hit with a peppery spiciness that could rival any radish. And that is precisely why I love it.
Unsurprisingly, watercress is a member of the cruciferous family and can count mustard greens, horseradish, and broccoli as family members. This relationship at least explains the intense spicy flavor of its delicate paddle-shaped leaves. Those leaves are also packed with vitamins and minerals, making watercress both a flavorful and a healthful addition to our foods.
Watercress can be eaten raw or quickly cooked. Cooking does tame its pepper-factor quite a bit, but don't be afraid to use it raw! Try adding it to salads of mild spring greens or using it in sandwiches instead of lettuce. If you cook it, do so briefly — add a handful to a stir fry at the very end of cooking or stir the leaves into a soup right when you take it off the heat. The aim is to wilt the cress without letting it turn to mush.
This green is best if used within a day or two of buying it. Keep it in the fridge wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. If the watercress is still attached to its roots, as pictured, it will last a little longer. When ready to cook, cut off the roots and the bottom inch or so of the stems, which tend to be fibrous. Rinse the leaves under cool water to remove any dirt before eating or cooking.
Ready for some watercress inspiration? Here are five favorite recipes:
Do you ever use watercress in your cooking? How do you use it?
(Image: Emma Christensen)