Latin name: Nasturtium officinale
What is Watercress?
Watercress is a semi-aquatic perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, and is among the oldest known leaf vegetable to be consumed by humans. Watercress is part of the Cruciferea family (also known as Brassicaceae), or cabbage family, and is noteworthy for its peppery, tangy flavor. The green hollow shoots of watercress float on top of water, and the cress leaves grow on either side of the stem. The foliage of watercress becomes bitter when the plants begin producing flowers, and therefore watercress is harvested before it begins to flower.
The use of watercress can be traced back over 3 millennia to the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The green sprigs of watercress are often added to salads and used in sandwiches; many cuisines have popularized the use of watercress in soup, including French, Italian, and Chinese. In the refrigerator, watercress has a storage life of 1 to 2 days.
What are the health benefits of Watercress?
Watercress has traditionally been used as a stimulant, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. According to traditional Chinese medicine, watercress clears heat and lubricates the lungs, so it is an excellent remedy for cough, sore throat, and upper respiratory inflammation.
Watercress contains a rich supply of vitamins A and C, as well as the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iodine, and zinc. A recent study found that consumption of watercress appears to reduce cancer risk, especially defending against lung cancer. Also, watercress, because of its high iodine content, is thought to have a strengthening effect on the thyroid gland, making it beneficial for sufferers of hypothyroidism.
Where can I find Watercress?
Watercress can be found in most grocery stores and some outdoor markets; it is usually available year round.
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