Watercress

I recently mentioned that American brooklime often grew in association with watercress. Indeed, the brooklime in the pictures flourished together with watercress in that spring-fed stream flowing into the Pit River (Shasta County CA).

Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium, also known as Nasturtium officinale) is an Old World immigrant that now grows wild throughout almost all of North America. Preferring slow-running or standing freshwater, this aquatic is always found in water.

The glabrous (hairless) leaves can be oval or pinnate (a compound leaf pattern). Small, four-petaled whitish flowers grow in clusters on terminal stalks. The fruits are inch long capsules containing two rows of tiny seeds.  The floating, trailing stems and leaves can grow to three feet in length.

Watercress is commercially available and widely used as a salad green or potherb. We have all had – or joked about – watercress tea sandwiches. The watercress found in your nearby creek or stream is the same as the commercial product and a lot less expensive. A member of the mustard family, watercress tastes like peppery lettuce. In addition to tasting good, watercress is very high in Vitamins A, E, C and the B Vitamins and contains significant amounts of calcium, potassium, sulfur, iron, copper and manganese.

Herbalists used watercress to aid in digestion.

When collecting watercress be certain to avoid plants growing in polluted waters and thoroughly wash the greens before eating to remove any organisms that may be living on the plant.

Rorippa, the genus name, comes from the Old Saxon name for this plant.

This abundant, nutritious and tasty wild green should not be ignored.

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