The author collects watercress from a spring on her property (Photo credit: John Q. Hines)


This week's wild edible is a superfood, grows in many parts of the world, and has a long history as a medicinal food. It was part of Captain James Cook's arsenal against scurvy. According to the CDC, watercress is the most nutrient dense vegetable you can eat! And it's probably growing in a stream very near you.
An absolute powerhouse of nutrition, watercress is even more nutrient dense than kale or spinach. Like many wild plants, it's high in vitamins A and C. Watercress contains the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are useful for lowering blood pressure. Eating a cup of watercress will supply all your vitamin K needs, which together with the minerals, helps strengthen bones and teeth, and helps prevent osteoporosis. It's a member of the cruciferous family, containing cancer-fighting compounds such as sulforophane, DIM, and isothiocyanates, which have been studied for their benefits in colon, lung, liver and breast cancer. It's a great source of folate, which contributes to healthier pregnancies, and improves cognitive function in older adults. It contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin activity and prevent oxidative stress. Lastly, it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for everything from brain and mental health to preventing heart disease. 
Are you still with me? And that was the short list! Have I convinced you to try some? All that nutrition, and it tastes delicious, too! It's in the nasturtium family, so it has a similar peppery taste to the pretty orange flowers you might have growing around your house.
It prefers shallow, flowing water, so look in a nearby creek or spring. You can harvest it most anytime of the year, but I prefer picking it in the cool of spring, before it flowers. Pull up a clump, cut off and discard the ragged roots and yellowed leaves or tough stems. Rinse off any dirt in the flowing water before placing it in your basket, collecting only the parts you'll use: this is so much easier than taking it all home to clean later.
You can sauté them, mix the tops with other lettuces, greens and vegetables to make a salad, or toss a small handful in your morning green smoothie. But my favorite way to consume watercress is as a pesto! It is delicious on eggs, chicken, fish, pizza, and so much more! This pesto lasts several weeks in the fridge, and freezes well. 
You'll need a good quality extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, and garlic, which each have their own well-known nutritional benefits also. Don't skimp on the quality of the olive oil--  you want to maximize the nutrition of this condiment! Try my recipe below and let me know how you like it! 
2 cups watercress leaves and stems, loosely packed
1/3 cup walnuts
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Grind the walnuts and garlic cloves first. Then add the watercress and salt. Drizzle the olive oil slowly into the mixture. Adjust the amount to make the pesto as thick or thin as you prefer.  Continue blending until it is smooth. Store in a jar in your fridge, or freeze.
An avid student of natural health since 1987, Ann is a Missouri native, health coach, triathlete, and collector of rocks and children. She can be reached at

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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