Last week I shared my master lists of easy-to-grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs. I made a boo-boo however. I accidentally omitted one of my favorite veggies from the list. It’s a leafy green veggie that should be on your nutritional radar—and odds are, you’ve never heard of it, let alone, considered eating it.
It’s a superfood. And a relatively new one at that.
Meet cress, also known as garden cress or watercress.
True, kale can pack a big punch. So can broccoli. Both are chock-full of cancer-fighting antioxidants. And they grow well in Kodiak.
Think of watercress as spinach’s tiny but mighty counterpart. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), watercress is the most nutrient-dense vegetable you can eat.
I didn’t take to cress until a few years ago…
A TALE FROM MY CHILDHOOD
Growing up in Washington State, I saw many examples of watercress in the wild, mostly growing in a roadside ditch. Not very appealling. Just like blue mussels.
Our family spent many summers on the beaches of Puget Sound. At low tide, I enjoyed watching gulls, crows, and ravens crack open clams and mussels. Not with tools, like a sea otter would use. These guys took to the skies…
Using its beak like a pair of chopsticks, a gull would clamp down on a mussel, fly straight up, pause at top-dead-center and then drop the bivalve. Whereupon it smashed upon the rocky beach. The gull swooped down to dine.
As a child, I considered mussels a trash food. After all, if a non-discriminating gull liked mussels, they had to be bad. Same with watercress, the plant that grew in ditches.
I’m happy to report that my palate has matured.
Back to kale vs cress. For over a decade, kale has been touted as the best of the best when it comes to superfood, a term I’m not fond of. But it seems there are more than a dozen other vegetables that pack more nutritional punch.
Chinese cabbage, spinach, parsley and even some types of lettuce are just some of the vegetables that have been found to contain more of certain essential nutrients than kale.
But the vegetable that you should move to the very top of your next shopping list, is watercress. This small, delicate, and deliciously peppery salad green is the only one to get a perfect nutrient density score of 100. Watercress provides a high amount of nutrients for a small amount of calories.
Get this: One cup of watercress contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, which protects your bones. It also provides high doses of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Not only is watercress fresh and nutritious, but its versatility also makes it a great addition to salads, wraps, soups (as a topping) and smoothies alike.
My favorite cress is called Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Cress. (Say that three times as fast as you can!). It’s one of the earliest greens I grow. Sowing the seeds directly in the garden and hoophouse as neat rows, making it easy to harvest with scissors. Within a couple weeks, you have fabulous micro-greens.
But you needn’t wait until spring to savor cress’ pepperiness. The seeds are easy to sprout indoors as micro-greens. Cress is delicate and super fast to grow. Use a sprout grower (there are many on the market) or make your own from a canning jar with mesh secured over the top.
When I crave fresh greens (or just the sight of green, growing things), I’ve resorted to using half-pint canning jars as sprouters. I space them along a south-facing windowsill. I rinse the water daily and within two weeks, I have greens to clip and eat.
Other micro-greens that you can sprout indoors include broccoli, arugula, peas, radish, and sunflower.
To end this week’s column, I’d like to toss in a few mid-winter chores for you to tackle as weather allows. Remember, the more tasks you check off your list, the easier it is to step into spring.
Prune it: The best time to prune cherry trees, currants, blueberries, honey berries, and roses is before the sap starts to flow.
Clean up the mess: Winter winds have a habit of breaking and tossing branches and limbs on lawns, curbs and driveways.
Love your rhubarb: If you didn’t get around to mulching your rhubarb patch in the fall, take a trip to the beach at low tide to collect some seaweed. Mix it with aged manure (horse, cow, goat, chicken, buffalo, whale, rabbit) for best results.
Weed, whenever you can: some of last fall’s crop of weeds is still alive and well, especially in protected spots. Bundle up, don some gloves, grab a 5-gallon bucket, and head outside for some preventive weeding.
Out with the old: Still have broccoli and kale in your raised beds? Yank them now, lest you invite root maggots to overwinter and infest your new cabbage-family crops.
SHADES OF GREEN
Don’t despair if watercress isn’t your thing. There are a bunch of other high-scoring powerhouse veggies to choose from, including: Watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce, collard green, turnip green, mustard green, endive, chive, kale.
May the [green] force be with you.
Get Marion’s free Photo Tips PDF, a collection of her favorite photography tips, when you sign up for Marion’s Goodness from Kodiak newsletter—a freindly collection of recipes, photo tips, night sky events and more. Look for details on her blog at MarionOwenAlaska.com or find her on Facebook and Instagram. You can also contact Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org