How to use watercress and other greens-and why you should

Greens are a superfood because they are so nutritious, are inexpensive to grow, and come in many varieties with a broad diversity of flavors and textures.

Despite the name, this blog isn’t about watercress, but is like watercress-unique, peppery, bright and nutritious. And as a physician blogger, I want to know more about the health benefits (and possible dangers) from watercress.

So while searching for information about watercress, I found an intriguing book,

the book of greens-a cook’s compendium

More specifically, it is

“A cook’s compendium of 40 varieties, from Arugula to Watercress, with more than 175 recipes” from the title page

The authors

Jenn Louis has competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs,” and has earned two nominations for the James Beard Foundation Award of Best Chef: Northwest. Her debut cookbook, Pasta By Hand published in 2015, was nominated for an IACP from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and this, her second book, debuted in April 2017 and won an IACP award. The book was also nominated for a James Beard Award.

She has owned and operated three restaurants and a catering business in Portland, Oregon. Jenn is actively involved with nonprofits including World Central Kitchen, Alex’s Lemonade and Share Our Strength.

Kathleen Squires is a food and travel writer from New York City. She has coauthored The Coolhaus Ice Cream Book, The Quick Six Fix, and The Journey, which won an IACP award.

Why write about greens?

The Book of Greens is about 40 different varieties of greens; some you probably already know and use-

  • arugula
  • bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • lettuces
  • spinach

Others are less known and used, at least to me-

  • agretti
  • chickweed
  • mache
  • mizuna
  • seaweed
  • succulents
  • wild and foraged greens
Greens are a superfood because they are so nutritious, are inexpensive to grow, and come in many varieties with a broad diversity of flavors and textures. Jenn Louis

green leafy vegetables
image from LIGHTSTOCK.COM, stock photo site, an affiliate link

What’s in The Book of Greens?

This book is a cookbook, not a textbook on greens, so it features recipes, some simple, some complicated, but all incorporating some variety of greens. She starts by covering some cooking basics as it applies to greens-

  • How to buy greens-fresh, in small quantities
  • How to prepare-clean and handle them gently
  • How to cook-which methods work best for each variety
  • Storage of greens
  • Tools to use in prep and cooking
  • Notes on common ingredients used in cooking greens-oils, spices, salts, stocks, vinegars
  • Seasons-when to buy

Watercress basics –Nasturtium officinale

an ultrapeppery, strong-stemmed green, one of the oldest documented greens, dating back to ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia page 271
  • most often used in salads and sandwiches, and pureed as a soup
  • used in sandwiches for British afternoon tea
  • prescribed by Hippocrates (an ancient Greece physician, considered the father of medicine)
  • used by Captain Cook’s crew to prevent scurvy

This last point was likely due to its Vitamin C content; a deficiency causes the disease scurvy. It also is rich in other vitamins- A, B, E, K, and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese. Some experts call it the most nutrient-rich vegetable.

How to use watercress

Watercress grows in the spring and fall in North America. She calls it a tender green which can be eaten raw or cooked. Best cooking methods are

  • lightly sauteed
  • wilted in soups
  • quickly steamed
  • quickly stir-fried over very high heat

Watercress recipes in this book

  • Chicken and pork belly paella with watercress
  • Slow-roasted pork tonnato with watercress and tomatoes
  • Watercress soup with creme fraiche and za’atar

Wild watercress-Nasturtium microphyllium

This watercress relative grows wild, rather than cultivated. It has a “more intense peppery and piquant flavor.” It grows in any watery terraine-streams, lakes, ponds. (Edible wild greens must be chosen carefully, so as not to confuse them with poisonous plants.)

In addition to the authors, the photographer, Ed Anderson, deserves special recognition. His photos of the greens and the finished recipes make this a “coffee table book”, even if you never try a single recipe.

Also by Jenn louis, pasta by hand

Other posts on this blog about watercress

powerhouse vegetables

“A 2014 research study tried to determine exactly which fruits and vegetables were most likely to keep us healthy.

They defined  “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” as those  highest in nutrients, specifically the minerals potassium, calcium, iron and zinc and vitamins A,B,C, D, E and K. ” continue reading at the link above

exploring the HEART of healthy cooking

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What is a Powerhouse Vegetable?

They defined “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” as those highest in nutrients, specifically the minerals potassium, calcium, iron and zinc and vitamins A,B,C, D, E and K.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Nutrition experts recommend fruits and vegetables in the treatment  and prevention of several chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease,  and cancers. The greatest health benefits have been attributed to the green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous varieties.

A 2014 research study tried to determine exactly which fruits and vegetables were most likely to keep us healthy.

Researching powerhouse vegetables

A 2014 research study tried to determine exactly which fruits and vegetables were most likely to keep us healthy.

They defined  “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” as those  highest in nutrients, specifically the minerals potassium, calcium, iron and zinc and vitamins A,B,C, D, E and K. They looked at the percent daily value  (DV) of these nutrients  per 100 grams ( 3.5 ounces) of each food.

The Food and Drug Administration defines foods providing 10% or more DV of a nutrient as good sources of the nutrient, or nutrient dense.

What foods are nutrient dense? 

41 out of 47 vegetables satisfied the powerhouse criterion .

from 70% to 100% nutrient dense

  • cruciferous –watercress, Chinese cabbage, collard green, kale, arugul
  • green leafy-(chard, beet green, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce groups

from 24% to 62% nutrient dense

  • Other greens-collard, mustard, and turnip, kale, broccoli, pumpkin, and brussels sprouts

from 10% to 22% nutrient dense

  • Yellow/orange-carrot, tomato, winter squash, sweet potato, allium -scallion, leek,
  • citrus-lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit
  • berry- strawberry, blackberry groups

less than 10%

  • Raspberry
  • tangerine
  • cranberry
  • garlic
  • onion
  • blueberry

So, besides the fact that fruits and vegetables taste good, here is another good reason to eat them.

You can read a summary of the article with a list of all the vegetables studied with their nutrient density at this link-

 Preventing Chronic Disease | Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach – CDC.

plate of vegetables
Healthy food choices don’t have to be difficult

Less red meat + more vegetables = less cancer

Need ideas for cooking vegetables? Here are cookbooks to consider (Using these affiliate links costs you nothing extra, and the commision helps fund this blog’s mission)

Vegetable of the Day

Eat Your Vegetables

sharing the HEART of healthy eating

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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