Watercress belongs to the mustard family and is an aquatic salad green that is also considered an herb. It has a pleasantly strong bite and pairs well with lighter flavorings, especially in sauces. While originating in Asia and Europe, “cress” is found growing wild in clear waters throughout many countries. Commercially grown plants are harvested from protected beds that are free of contaminants.
Watercress is among several varieties in the “cress” family, along with garden cress, bittercress, upland cress, and Indian-cress. It is considered the mildest species.
Watercress is typically sold in bunches, but smaller markets may stock it loose in bins. Look for firm stalks and large, dark leaves that are relatively clean.
Keep moist in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Do not wash. Watercress will remain fresh for up to five days. For freezing, wash and chop or puree.
- Just before using, dip in cold water to remove grit.
- Blanch, drain, and blend with a favorite salad oil or dressing.
- Remove the lower portion of the stalk, which can be tough. Upper bracts are edible.
- Use in combination with lettuce on sandwiches.
- Crush or coarsely process and add to rice dishes.