Plant Profiles Watercress Nasturtium Officinale

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale (formerly Rorippa, though evidence now show that they are more closely related to nasturtiums.”

This family is also identified by the term Cruciferae, meaning “cross-bearing,” because the four petals of their flowers often resemble a cross. The other is the Nasturtium microphyllum, also known as the “brown” or “winter watercress”.

The Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) produces small white and green flowers in clusters. They have four free saccate (sac-shaped) See photo here)

The plant depends on insects for pollination (entomogamy).  It produces nectar at the base of the stamens which is stored on the sepals. Insects light on the sepals to collect the nectar while simultaneously picking up pollen from the plant and transporting from plant to plant as it feeds.

To taste, much like most of the mustard family, provides a flavor often described as pungent and peppery.

Because it is rich in vitamins A and C, and a source of folate, calcium, iron, and other beneficial nutrients, it has been used by humans as an editable vegetable since the days of the ancient Greeks who called it kardamon (“cress”) and proclaimed “Eat watercress and get wit”. The Romans prepared it as a salad. The Germans are believed to have begun cultivating the crop in the 1600’s.  The English record of cultivating and promoting watercress, as a salad, begin in the early 1800s. Added to salads, soups, and sandwiches; or used as a garnish, it provides a nutritious addition to food.

Some of the medicinal claims from eating watercress are that it acts as a mild stimulant, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It is seen to have useful amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium and iodine.  Eating watercress is said to provide a good source of antioxidants and appears to have cancer-suppressing properties.

Dietary-wise, being 93% water, it is low calorie, naturally low in sodium and contains very little carbohydrate and fat while still providing some protein.

Though eating watercress can be a good source of nutrition and a nice garnish for other foods, it must be thoroughly rinse and cleaned before eating.  Watercress crops grown in the presence of animal waste, are found to be havens for parasites such as the liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica), which can cause fasciolosis/ liver damage, in humans.

 This is the basic profile of the Watercress. Bon appetite!