It has a reputation of nearly mythical proportions. It’s crunchy, tender, spicy, sweet, and has been regarded as a superfood for millennia. Hippocrates, the ancient Persians, and Napoleon were huge fans. It’s a staple in the famous Mediterranean diet, and the ways that you can enjoy it are endless. For Vermonters, it’s the most nutritious local staple that we can produce here year round.
I’m talking about watercress, of course.
Watercress has a reputation for spiciness, but I find it to be milder and sweeter than most arugulas, with a more delicate…well, pepperiness. The watercress I have experience with is also rather conveniently easy to wash because of the soilless environment it loves to grow in – it truly thrives in a hydroponic setting.
Dave Hartshorn of Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics produces the watercress we carry at Healthy Living all year in his hydroponic greenhouse in Waitsfield, VT. The company does not use pesticides and Dave’s goal is to be as efficient and sensitive to the environment as it is possible to be for their type of farm. You can find out more about Dave and the farm here.
Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics also produces lovely basil and lettuces that we sell, but talking about watercress is what really gets Dave going. It’s partly history, partly nutrition, and partly how happily it grows in his greenhouse that makes Dave so excited about it. For him, like others throughout history, watercress has earned a special status – because it grows so well and quickly in the environment he has created for it and it’s so deliciously healthy. It’s been proven to be a very good source of vitamins and minerals. When I say very good, I mean that the CDC has done tests and watercress came to the top of the list, with the highest nutrient density of any fruit or veg in the study.
If you get a 5oz bag of watercress, you have enough for three large meal-sized salads. My favorite recipe came from Dave (unsurprisingly) and it is basically just watercress, a citrus vinaigrette, chopped blood orange, and avocado. If you don’t want to eat just a large pile of greens every day (you don’t??), you can add it to anything you would sauté or bake that would like a little bit of something green, make classic English watercress soup, or put it on your sandwich. Don’t worry about what you can do with it, let watercress do what it can for you!
I’ll admit it, I’m obviously a convert. The fact that I can get a locally grown superfood even in the depths of a Northern winter just makes it very attractive. And at the heart of it, buying Dave’s watercress means that I’m supporting a local business, and replacing standard salad greens on my plate with something even fresher, healthier, and more interesting. For winter in Vermont, it really doesn’t get better than that.