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Watercress (Nasturtium microphyllum)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Watercress
Nasturtium microphyllum
Cruciferae

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    Antiscorbutic, diuretic, expectorant, purgative, stimulant, stomachic[4, 9, 21, 46]. Use with caution[21].

  • Edible Use

    Leaves – raw or cooked[2, 5, 7, 9, 16, 27]. Exceptionally rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron[200]. The leaves are mainly used as a garnish or as an addition to salads, the flavour is strong with a characteristic hotness[183].

    The seed can be sprouted and eaten in salads[183]. A hot flavour.

    The seed is ground into a powder and used as a mustard[46, 183]. The pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed – an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 – 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild but bitter mustard[238].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow spring in a pot emmersed to half its depth in water. Germination should take place within a couple of weeks. Prick out seedlings into individual pots whilst they are still small and increase the depth of water gradually until they are submerged. Plant out into a pond in the summer. Cuttings can be taken at any time in the growing season. Virtually any part of the plant, including a single leaf, will form roots if detached from the parent plant[56]. Just put it in a container of water until the roots are well formed and then plant out in shallow water.
Watercress is easily grown when given the correct conditions of slowly flowing clean water, preferably coming from chalky or limestone soils[264]. It prefers to grow in water about 5cm deep[37] with an optimum pH 7.2[200]. Plants can be grown in wet soil if the position is somewhat shaded and protection is given in winter, though the flavour may be hotter[27, 37]. Plants are hardy to about -15¡c[200], they tolerate somewhat lower temperatures than the closely related N. officinale[200]. Watercress is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties[16, 183]. The plant is very sensitive to pollution so a clean source of water is required[200]. Plants will often continue to grow all through mild winters. A fast-growing plant, the stems trail along the ground or float in water and produce new roots at the leaf nodes, thus making the plant very easy to propagate vegetatively[238]. Unfortunately, virus diseases have become more common in cultivated plants and so most propagation is carried out by seed[264]. This is a triploid species. It has hybridised naturally in the wild with the diploid species N. officinale to produce the sterile hybrid N. x sterilis which is also commonly cultivated as a salad crop[264]. The flowers are a rich source of pollen and so are very attractive to bees[7].
Europe, including Britain, to W. Asia.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.