It was probably wistful thinking on the part of “The New Food Lover’s Companion,” the go-to glossary of kitchen terms. “It’s a popular garnish, fast replacing the ubiquitous parsley,” the 2001 edition of the iconic reference book reassures readers. Parsley doesn’t have much to fear. But chefs wise to aesthetics and nutrition are increasingly making the swap.
The semi-aquatic plant, which is kin to mustard and wasabi, isn’t new. Ancient Persians fed watercress to soldiers and children. Its perceived strengthening properties later made it a favorite of Captain James Cook, who credited it with warding off scurvy. Fellow Brits were equally fond of watercress, tucking it into their tea sandwiches.
But health experts say the consumption of watercress shouldn’t be confined to tea time. The Centers for Disease Control earlier this year published a study showing watercress is the most super of all superfoods, a rank it earned through its fiber, protein and vitamins.
Artisan Meat Share (Porchetta sandwich with ‘nduja, pork cracklins, watercress, caramelized onions and mayonnaise on ciabatta, $11)
Charleston chefs can always find something to do with a peppery green: Watercress complements the grilled squash at Edmund’s Oast; greens the quinoa-and-lentil salad at Gathering Cafe; and appears atop wood-fired clams at Husk.
Where to buy it
Watercress is available in most supermarkets with a decent produce section.