In my kitchen (and garden) today: watercress
It’s so early in the season that not much is growing yet. But I do have some perennial vegetables that never let me down. One of my favorites to add to salads this time of year is watercress.
You can often find watercress growing in the wild in clean streams and springs where it floats its roots in the running water. I have a stream (artificial but filled with clean water from my sump pumps), and a few years ago a friend gave me a bedraggled clump of watercress. I tossed it in the stream, not thinking much more about it.
Happily, it took hold and has been with me ever since. It moves around, but always comes back. It seems to overwinter along the sides of the stream, and then when the stream comes back to life in the spring finds its way into the flowing water.
Watercress is a member of the mustard family, just like broccoli, radish, mustard and kale. You can identify the members of this family by the fact that their flowers have only four petals. They are also filled with sulfur compounds called sulphoraphanes that give them their distinctive odor and taste. These compounds are anticarcinogenic, making them healthy additions to the diet.
Right now in the garden I have sorrel, spring onions, spinach and of course, watercress with its peppery tang. All of these ingredients are fairly strong-flavored so adding them to a salad made with milder massaged kale and romaine gives the palate a burst of the essence of spring. If you can’t grow your own watercress, it’s often available in grocery stores and the farmers market. Look for it with the microgreens (also a tasty addition to this salad). Feel free to substitute any greens you have in your own garden or yard - dandelion, early endive, chickweed, mizuna, mustard or even the first tasty leaves of purslane.
Check out the recipe tabs at the left for a delicious watercress salad.