American Survival Guide

THE WIDE­SPREAD WA­TER­CRESS IS ALSO USE­FUL AND TASTY

- BY CHRISTO­PHER NY­ERGES Food · Healthy Food · Healthy Living · U.S. Agriculture Department · Madagascar

Name: Wa­ter­cress (Nas­tur­tium of­fic­i­nale)

Wa­ter­cress is a mem­ber of the Mus­tard fam­ily. There are five species of Nas­tur­tium world­wide.

De­scrip­tion

Wa­ter­cress is a weak-stemmed an­nual that is al­ways found along streams or slow-mov­ing wa­ters. Each leaf is pin­nately di­vided, a typ­i­cal Mus­tard fam­ily con­fig­u­ra­tion. The stems are hol­low, and the roots are white on the un­der­wa­ter part of the plant.

The flow­ers are white and, as with all mem­bers of the Mus­tard fam­ily, con­sist of four petals, four sepals, one pis­til and six sta­mens (four tall and two short). Yes, you might need a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to see this!

Ar­eas Found

Found world­wide, wa­ter­cress is re­stricted to the edges of lakes and streams, and springs. It can be found in the low­est el­e­va­tions, along the streams that en­ter oceans and it can be found in the higher el­e­va­tions. It can be found in ev­ery state of the Union.

When to 〈ar­vest/avail­abil­ity

In the win­ter and spring, ris­ing wa­ters can wash the wa­ter­cress away. The plants then be­gin to sprout up again in late spring and through the sum­mer, which are the best times to gather. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor Euell Gib­bons, wa­ter­cress is one of the very few wild edi­ble plants that he was able to find ev­ery month of the year, even when there was snow on the ground.

Uses

FOOD: The en­tire wa­ter­cress plant, ex­cept the roots, is used in raw and cooked dishes. The younger leaves are good in sal­ads, since they are not as spicy as the older plants. The plant is rinsed, diced, and added to all va­ri­eties of soups and stews, to which the wa­ter­cress lends a spicy hot­ness. Once the plant has flow­ered, it also de­vel­ops bit­ter­ness and is then best af­ter be­ing cooked.

To make a wilder­ness cook­ing spice, the wa­ter­cress plant can be dried and pow­dered and then used alone or with salt.

Wa­ter­cress greens can also be fer­mented, a lá kim­chi.

PRO­CESS­ING: When you col­lect wa­ter­cress, you don’t need to up­root the en­tire plant. Just gather a hand­ful, and cut above the roots. The stems are ten­der and can be col­lected eas­ily this way. Then, when you’re ready to eat, first ex­am­ine all that you’ve col­lected and re­move any de­bris. Rinse, and chop fine for sal­ads, coarse for soups.

Fresh wa­ter­cress will keep a week or longer in the re­frig­er­a­tor and sev­eral days in a cooler. It can also be kept in a vase of water in your kitchen for up to a few days be­fore you eat it.

If you plan to dry the plant as a sea­son­ing, re­move any for­eign de­bris, rinse and place it whole in your de­hy­dra­tor.

MEDICINE/NU­TRI­TION: Wa­ter­cress is a source of con­sid­er­able vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, ac­cord­ing to the USDA. One hun­dred grams of wa­ter­cress (ap­prox­i­mately two serv­ings) con­tains 120 mg of cal­cium, 60 mg of phos­pho­rus, 330 mg of potas­sium, 43 mg of vi­ta­min C, and 3,191 I.U. of vi­ta­min A.

OTHER USES: Wa­ter­cress is a food, how­ever, the dried plant can also serve as a spice for bland foods, such as MRES.

Ad­vice For Grow­ing

Some farm­ers grow wa­ter­cress hy­dro­pon­i­cally. Some have tried to grow it in sand, where there is a fairly reg­u­lar flow of water. If you can­not du­pli­cate the con­di­tions in na­ture, you will prob­a­bly be frus­trated try­ing to grow wa­ter­cress, and you should prob­a­bly stick to cul­ti­vat­ing one of the other ter­res­trial Mus­tard fam­ily mem­bers, which are easy to cul­ti­vate.

Cau­tions

Older wa­ter­cress greens will be­come very spicy and even bit­ter and are best cooked. Also, if you are not cer­tain about the pu­rity of the water in which you col­lected wa­ter­cress, you should cook the plant be­fore eat­ing it.

Recipes SATUR­DAY NIGHT SPE­CIAL

Sauté half an onion in a skil­let with but­ter. Add at least one cup of chopped wa­ter­cress greens – leaves and stems. Cook gently un­til it’s all ten­der. Add a dash of soy sauce or liq­uid amino acid, and serve.

TONGVA MEM­O­RIES (SOUP)

• 3 cups milk (you can sub­sti­tute al­mond milk)

• 1 cup finely minced wa­ter­cress

• Pa­prika

• ½ tsp. kelp pow­der

Heat, but do not boil, the milk. Add the minced wa­ter­cress, and let it steep for five min­utes, cov­ered. La­dle into bowls and sprin­kle with the spices when it is served.

About ASG’S Plant Ad­vi­sor

Christo­pher Ny­erges has been teach­ing eth­nob­otany since 1974. He is the au­thor of "Guide to Wild Foods and Use­ful Plants" and other books on the uses of wild plants. Ny­erges has con­trib­uted many ar­ti­cles to Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide on a wide range of top­ics. He can be reached at SCHOOLOFSE­LF-RELIANCE.COM.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Far right: Wa­ter­cress is packed with nutri­ents and can be made into a pot of soup and cooked in a pan of eggs.
Near right: This young wa­ter­cress is thriv­ing in a slow-mov­ing stream.
Bot­tom right: This wa­ter­cress is in flower. Note the dif­fer­ence in size be­tween the white flow­ers and the wa­ter­cress leaves.
Be­low: Note the con­fig­u­ra­tion of these young and healthy wa­ter­cress leaves.
Far right: Wa­ter­cress is packed with nutri­ents and can be made into a pot of soup and cooked in a pan of eggs. Near right: This young wa­ter­cress is thriv­ing in a slow-mov­ing stream. Bot­tom right: This wa­ter­cress is in flower. Note the dif­fer­ence in size be­tween the white flow­ers and the wa­ter­cress leaves. Be­low: Note the con­fig­u­ra­tion of these young and healthy wa­ter­cress leaves.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA