Watercress

Watercress


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Common Name:  Watercress.

Latin Name:  Nasturtium officinale.

Origin:  Europe and Asia.

Description (what it looks like):  A perennial, hardy aquatic creeper that grows naturally in gently flowing streams or backyard ponds.  Stems are hollow and float.  The leaves are semi-circular or fan-like in an emerald glossy green colour.  Small white and green flowers bloom in clusters all summer long.  Watercress is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans.  Botanically related to mustard, radish and wasabi.

Uses (function):  The Greeks and Romans believed that it cleared the mind so that decisions could be made more easily. They used it as a salve for wounds due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties.  Fully utilise your backyard permaculture pond as a food producing powerhouse.  Attract beneficial insects to the garden and water source, which can act as a second food source for pond fish as bugs fall into the water.  Fish will consume watercress if overhanging into their water.  Chickens love it too, so make sure they don’t have unrestricted access to it, or you may not have any plant left.  Watercress aids the liver, helping it to stay healthy.

Nutritional value:  Watercress is 95% water and has low contents of carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber, however it contains 13 amino acids, beta-carotene, the B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C, K, and the following minerals: – calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, iodine and zinc.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Propagate by placing some stems in a bottle of water and changing it once a day.  When it has grown roots, it can be transplanted into pots.  Water frequently or place into your pond/aquaculture system to a depth of 10cm held down by a layer of gravel over the soil.

Best time to grow:  Spring or summer in tropical climates, so it can establish before the rains come.

Soil:  Sandy or a mixture of 50:50 good garden soil and potting mix.  Cover with mulch if planting in the ground.

Sun:  Full sun to part shade.

Water:  Moist to wet soil, or submerged in an aquaculture setup.

How to eat it:  Its pungent flavor is slightly bitter and has a peppery taste.  It tastes a little like rocket but is less spicy, although they can be substituted for each other.  Use in salads, soups and sandwiches.  Eaten raw  is useful for diabetics as it helps to remove excess sugar in the blood.  A tisane can be made from 5 grams of watercress to 1 cup of boiling water, steeped for 10 minutes and then strained.  This is good as a diuretic and if you have a bronchial cough or cold.  Boost it up with the addition of cayenne pepper or black pepper.

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