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Watercress (Cresson)

Some random facts about watercress in France. Can you eat it raw? Is it good for you? Find out how it’s harvested and how to eat it without it being too bitter.

watercress at the French market

Watercress Seasons

Autumn, Winter and Spring.
September – May. Best watercress harvest is in December.

man harvesting watercress directly in the field

watercress fields in Veules-les-Roses in Upper Normandy

Some Facts about French Watercress (Cresson):

  • Semi-aquatic plant (Nasturtium officinale) from the mustard and turnip family. Mainly grown in Northern France: Ile-de France and Normandy. Watercress thrives in cool flowing streams, where it grows submerged, floating on the water, or spread over mud surfaces.
  • Not to be confused with the garden ornamental nasturtium (genus Tropaeolum) which is not closely related to watercress.
  • Health benefits: according to Aprifel, it’s high in vitamin C (70% daily value) and K and contains Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and a trace of iron. It’s also a good antioxidant;
  • According to the Watercress Company, it can help reduce the visible signs of skin ageing as it can also increase collagen production;
  • Can you eat watercress raw? Yes you can. It’s the best way to eat their healthy properties once washed well.
  • What does it taste like? When eaten raw it’s slightly bitter and very peppery like mustard. When cooked, the bitterness disappears – it even has some slightly cheesy flavours which I urge you to seek out;
  • What can I do with a lot of watercress? Great served raw in salads and with cheese before dessert. Most popular in France cooked, prepared in watercress Soup (soupe au cresson). The beauty of soup, is it freezes well;
  • 2 varieties in France: Le cresson d’alénois (eaten when young) and le cresson de fontaine (bigger leaves and more spicy/peppery);
  • When choosing watercress, ensure leaves are dark green and consume quickly within 2 days. Store in the fridge. Wash leaves in water with a few drops of vinegar;
  • Fun fact: Edith Cresson was French Minister of Agriculture (1981-83) and grew to French Première Ministre (1991-92).

 

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