Watercress is a rapidly growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. It is a member of the family Brassicaceae; watercress and its relatives garden cress, mustard, radish, and wasabi are all noteworthy for their piquant flavors.
The hollow stems of watercress will float; the leaf structure is pinnately compound. Small, white and green flowers are produced in clusters and are frequently visited by insects, especially hoverflies such as Eristalis flies.
Watercress is also listed in some sources as belonging to the genus Rorippa, although molecular evidence shows the aquatic species with hollow stems are more closely related to Cardamine than Rorippa. Despite the Latin name, watercress is not particularly closely related to the flowers popularly known as nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus); T. majus belongs to the family Tropaeolaceae, a sister taxon to the Brassicaceae within the order Brassicales.
Cultivation of watercress is practical on both a large-scale and a garden-scale. Being semi-aquatic, watercress is well-suited to hydroponic cultivation, thriving best in water that is slightly alkaline. It is frequently produced around the headwaters of chalk streams. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown watercress exceeds supply, partly because cress leaves are unsuitable for distribution in dried form, and can only be stored fresh for a short period.
Watercress can be sold in supermarkets in sealed plastic bags, containing a little moisture and lightly pressurised to prevent crushing of contents. This has allowed national availability with a once-purchased storage life of one to two days in chilled or refrigerated storage.
Also sold as sprouts, the edible shoots are harvested days after germination. If unharvested, watercress can grow to a height of 50 to 120 centimetres (1 1⁄2–4 ft). Like many plants in this family, the foliage of watercress becomes bitter when the plants begin producing flowers.
Watercress crops grown in the presence of manure can be an environment for parasites such as the liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica. By inhibiting cytochrome P450 (CYP2E1), compounds in watercress may alter drug metabolism in individuals on certain medications such as chlorzoxazone.
In the United Kingdom, watercress was first commercially cultivated in 1808 by the horticulturist William Bradbery, along the River Ebbsfleet in Kent. Watercress is now grown in a number of counties of the United Kingdom, most notably Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The town of Alresford, near Winchester, holds a Watercress Festival that brings in more than 15,000 visitors every year, and a preserved steam railway line has been named after the local crop. In recent years, watercress has become more widely available in the UK, at least in the southeast; it is stocked pre-packed in some supermarkets, as well as fresh by the bunch at farmers' markets and greengrocers.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||46 kJ (11 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||0.5 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Watercress is 95% water and has low contents of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and dietary fiber. A 100-gram serving of raw watercress provides 11 calories, is particularly rich in vitamin K (238% of the Daily Value, DV), and contains significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, and manganese (table).
As a cruciferous vegetable, watercress contains isothiocyanates, which are partly destroyed by boiling, while the content of carotenoids are slightly increased; steaming or microwave cooking retains these phytochemicals.
The Alton line is a railway line in Hampshire and Surrey, England, operated by South Western Railway as a relatively long branch of the South Western Main Line.
The branch leaves the main line at Pirbright Junction to the west of Brookwood station, Surrey, then turns to the southwest. The route crosses and recrosses the Surrey / Hampshire border, and serves the towns of Aldershot and Farnham before reaching its present-day terminus at Alton in East Hampshire. The line originally continued west to Winchester; the section between Alton and New Alresford is preserved as the heritage Watercress line.
The Alton line was electrified (750 V DC third rail) during the late interwar years by Southern Railway. Aside from regular electric trains, freight trains operated by EWS and steam trains connected to the Mid Hants Watercress Railway (by way of rolling stock supply or special excursion) operate on the line.Alton railway station
Alton railway station is a station in the town of Alton, in the English county of Hampshire. The station is the terminus for two railway lines: the Alton Line which runs to Brookwood and on to London Waterloo, and the Mid Hants Watercress Railway which runs to Alresford. The latter once ran through to Winchester but was closed to passengers in February 1973; it reopened as a heritage line in 1985. Two other routes, both now closed, also served the station – the Meon Valley line to Fareham and the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway.
Services operate along the Alton Line to Brookwood and join the South West Main Line towards London Waterloo. The line was single-tracked as far as Farnham by British Rail in the early 1980s.Barry Crump
Barry Crump, (15 May 1935 – 3 July 1996), was a New Zealand author of semi-autobiographical comic novels based on his image as a rugged outdoors man. Taken together his novels have sold more than a million copies domestically, equating to one book sold for every four New Zealanders. Crump's 1986 work Wild Pork and Watercress was adapted into the 2016 Taika Waititi film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.Cobb salad
The Cobb salad is a main-dish American garden salad typically made with chopped salad greens (iceberg lettuce, watercress, endives and romaine lettuce), tomato, crisp bacon, boiled, grilled or roasted (but not fried) chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, chives, Roquefort cheese, and red-wine vinaigrette.Fowlmere RSPB reserve
Fowlmere is a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserve between Fowlmere and Melbourn in Cambridgeshire. It is designated a 39.9 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest called Fowlmere Watercress Beds.Fowlmere's reedbeds and pools are fed by natural chalk springs and a chalk stream runs through the reserve. It has three hides, one of which is wheelchair-accessible. Special birds include kingfishers, water rails, sedge warblers, reed warblers and grasshopper warblers plus a roost of corn buntings in winter.Lettuce sandwich
A lettuce sandwich is a wrap with lettuce substituted for the bread, or a sandwich with a filling consisting primarily of lettuce.
It should not be confused with other sandwiches that use lettuce as one of many ingredients, such as the BLT sandwich or the tomato and lettuce sandwich. The lettuce sandwich has a long history in both the United States and the United Kingdom. It has been used as a metaphor to represent things like mundanity, weakness and poverty.New Alresford
New Alresford or simply Alresford ( OLZ-fərd or AWLZ-fərd) is a small town and civil parish in the City of Winchester district of Hampshire, England. It is 7.5 miles (12 km) northeast of Winchester and 12 miles (20 km) southwest of the town of Alton.
New Alresford has independent shops, a tourist information centre, a central conservation area, four tea rooms, five pubs and is a terminus as with Alton of the Watercress Line, a steam-worked heritage railway at Alresford railway station. Of its population, 25.9% are aged 65 or over, and the mean age is higher than the national average, at 45.4 years.River Itchen, Hampshire
The River Itchen (previously also known as the River Alre) is a river in Hampshire, England. It flows from mid-Hampshire to join with Southampton Water below the Itchen Bridge in the city of Southampton. The river has a total length of 28 miles (45 km), and is noted as one of the world's premier chalk streams for fly fishing, especially using dry fly or nymphing techniques. The local chalk aquifer provides excellent storage and filtration and the river has long been used for public water supply. Watercress thrives all along the Itchen valley in its once pristine, crystal clear waters, now affected by some farming practices. It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is noted for its high-quality habitats, supporting a range of protected species including water crowfoot, brown trout, the endangered water vole, otter, brook lamprey and white-clawed crayfish.
The river is managed by riparian owners with the use of water regulated by the Environment Agency, whilst the Port of Southampton is the navigation authority for the tidal section below Swaythling.
During Roman Britain, the river may have been associated with the Celtic goddess Ancasta.Ropley railway station
Ropley railway station is a railway station in Ropley, Hampshire, England, which opened in 1865 and reopened in 1977 after four years' closure, to be served by steam and select diesel trains on the Watercress Line which shares its terminus at Alton railway station along with the more major Alton Line.Rorippa palustris
Rorippa palustris is a species of flowering plant in the mustard family. It is widespread and native to parts of Africa, and much of Asia, Europe and Eurasia, North America and the Caribbean. It can also be found in other parts of the world as an introduced species and a common weed, for example, in Australia and South America. It is an adaptable plant which grows in many types of damp, wet, and aquatic habitat. It may be an annual, biennial, or perennial plant, and is variable in appearance as well.Sarratt
Sarratt is a village and civil parish in Three Rivers District, Hertfordshire. It is situated 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Rickmansworth on high ground near the county boundary with Buckinghamshire. The chalk stream, the River Chess, rising just north of Chesham in the Chiltern Hills, passes through Sarratt Bottom in the valley to the west of the village to join the River Colne in Rickmansworth. The conditions offered by the river are perfect for the cultivation of watercress. Sarratt has the only commercially operating watercress farm in Hertfordshire. The valley to the east of Sarratt is dry.Spencer Road Wetlands
Spencer Road Wetlands is a one hectare Local Nature Reserve in Mitcham in the London Borough of Sutton. It is owned by Sutton Council and managed by the London Wildlife Trust.From about 1895 to 1959 the site was subject to controlled flooding for watercress production. It was left then unmanaged, and colonised by willow woodland, until the late 1980s, and in 1991 the London Wildlife Trust took over the management. The site has reed swamps with wetland vegetation, woodland, a sedge-bed and a pond. Insects include the twin-spotted wainscot and crescent moths, and there are birds such as grey heron, reed warbler and kingfisher.The entrance at the corner of Spencer Road and Wood Street is kept locked and there is no public access.Sydling Water
The Sydling Water is an 8 km (5 mi) long river in Dorset, England, which flows from north to south from Up Sydling until it joins the River Frome near Grimstone.
The source of the river is a spring at Up Sydling. It passes the deserted mediaeval village of Elston and is then crossed at a ford by the road from Marrs Cross to Cerne Abbas. It then flows through the village of Sydling St Nicholas and through rural countryside until it goes under Grimstone Viaduct and soon afterwards into the River Frome near Grimstone. The 'valley road' south of the village of Sydling St Nicholas closely follows the river until it reaches Grimstone.
The river is known for its watercress farms and trout. Grey herons and little egrets are common sights.Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge
Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge is a 25-acre (100,000 m2) National Wildlife Refuge located in Jefferson County, Alabama, within the city limits of Bessemer. Watercress Darter NWR consists of a .25-acre (1,000 m2) pond known as Thomas Spring which is essential to the survival of the endangered watercress darter. A second pond was built on the site in 1983. The facility is unstaffed, but is administered by the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in Anniston, Alabama.Watercress Line
The Watercress Line is the marketing name of the Mid-Hants Railway, a heritage railway in Hampshire, England, running 10 miles (16 km) from New Alresford to Alton where it connects to the National Rail network. The line gained its popular name in the days that it was used to transport locally grown watercress to markets in London. The railway currently operates regular scheduled services, along with dining trains, real ale trains and numerous special events throughout the year.Watercress Wildlife Site
Watercress Wildlife Site is a 1.2-hectare (3.0-acre) Local Nature Reserve in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England. It is owned by St Albans City Council and managed by the Watercress Wildlife Association, a registered charity. The boundaries of the site are the Alban Way, the River Ver and the houses of Riverside Road.Until 1972 the site was one of the many commercial watercress beds in the area. It was then used partly as allotments, with fly tipping in some areas. In 1991 the council leased the site to the Watercress Wildlife Association, which cleared the site to become a nature reserve and gradually took over the allotments.The site has a wide variety of wildlife, including water rails, kingfishers, little grebes and muntjac deer.Watercress darter
The watercress darter (Etheostoma nuchale) is a small, colorful species of darter endemic to the eastern United States where it is only known from the Black Warrior River drainage basin near Birmingham, Alabama.Watercress soup
Watercress soup is a soup prepared using the leaf vegetable watercress as a primary ingredient. It may be prepared as a cream soup or as a broth/stock-based soup using vegetable or chicken stock. Additional ingredients used can include vegetables such as potato, leeks, spinach, celery and turnips, cheese, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Watercress soup can be prepared as a puréed soup by mixing the ingredients in a food processor. It can be served hot or cold, and may be garnished with crème fraîche, shaved Parmesan cheese, drizzled olive oil and watercress leaves.Watervale (horse)
Watervale (1908 – 1921) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse of exceptional speed who set two track records in the United States and a national record in Canada.