Watercress

Botanical Name :Nasturtium officinale
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Nasturtium
Species: N. officinale
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Brassicales

Synonyms:  Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum – (L.)Hayek., Sisymbrium nasturtium-aquaticum – L.

Common Name :Watercress

Habitat : Watercress is native to Europe and Asia, and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. It is a member of the family Brassicaceae, botanically related to garden cress, mustard and radish — all noteworthy for a peppery, tangy flavour.

Description:
It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies. The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.
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The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires wet soil and can grow in water.

In some regions, watercress is regarded as a weed, in other regions as an aquatic vegetable or herb. Watercress has been grown in many locations around the world.

Cultivation :
Watercress is easily grown when given the correct conditions of slowly flowing clean water, preferably coming from chalky or limestone soils. It prefers to grow in water about 5cm deep with an optimum pH 7.2. Plants can be grown in wet soil if the position is somewhat shaded and protection is given in winter, though the flavour may be hotter. Hardy to about -15°c. Watercress is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties. The plant is very sensitive to pollution so a clean source of water is required. Plants will often continue to grow all through mild winters. A fast-growing plant, the stems trail along the ground or float in water and produce new roots at the leaf nodes, thus making the plant very easy to propagate vegetatively. Unfortunately, virus diseases have become more common in cultivated plants and so most propagation is carried out by seed. This is a diploid species. It has hybridised naturally in the wild with the triploid species N. microphyllum to produce the sterile hybrid N. x sterilis which is also commonly cultivated as a salad crop. The flowers are a rich source of pollen and so are very attractive to bees.

Propagation:
Seed – sow spring in a pot emmersed to half its depth in water. Germination should take place within a couple of weeks. Prick out seedlings into individual pots whilst they are still small and increase the depth of water gradually until they are submerged. Plant out into a pond in the summer. Cuttings can be taken at any time in the growing season. Virtually any part of the plant, including a single leaf, will form roots if detached from the parent plant[56]. Just put it in a container of water until the roots are well formed and then plant out in shallow water.

Edible Uses.
Leaves – raw or cooked. Water cress is mainly used as a garnish or as an addition to salads, the flavour is strong with a characteristic hotness[183]. It has a reputation as a spring tonic, and this is its main season of use, though it can be harvested for most of the year and can give 10 pickings annually. Some caution is advised if gathering the plant from the wild, see the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are exceptionally rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron. A nutritional analysis is available. The seed can be sprouted and eaten in salads. A hot mustardy flavour. The seed is ground into a powder and used as a mustard. The pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed – an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 – 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild but bitter mustard.

Chemical Constituents:
Stems and leaves:
vitamins a, c and e, nicotinamide, a glycoside, gluconastur-tin, volatile oil, manganese, iron, phosphorus, iodine, copper, calcium

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Leaves (Fresh weight)•19 Calories per 100g
•Water: 93.3%
•Protein: 2.2g; Fat: 0.3g; Carbohydrate: 3g; Fibre: 0.7g; Ash: 1.2g;
•Minerals – Calcium: 151mg; Phosphorus: 54mg; Iron: 1.7mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 52mg; Potassium: 282mg; Zinc: 0mg;
•Vitamins – A: 2940mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.08mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.16mg; Niacin: 0.9mg; B6: 0mg; C: 79mg;

Medicinal Uses:
Antiscorbutic; Depurative; Diuretic; Expectorant; Hypoglycaemic; Odontalgic; Purgative; Stimulant; Stomachic; TB.

Watercress is very rich in vitamins and minerals, and has long been valued as a food and medicinal plant. Considered a cleansing herb, its high content of vitamin C makes it a remedy that is particularly valuable for chronic illnesses. The leaves are antiscorbutic, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, purgative, hypoglycaemic, odontalgic, stimulant and stomachic. The plant has been used as a specific in the treatment of TB. The freshly pressed juice has been used internally and externally in the treatment of chest and kidney complaints, chronic irritations and inflammations of the skin etc. Applied externally, it has a long-standing reputation as an effective hair tonic, helping to promote the growth of thick hair. A poultice of the leaves is said to be an effective treatment for healing glandular tumours or lymphatic swellings. Some caution is advised, excessive use of the plant can lead to stomach upsets. The leaves can be harvested almost throughout the year and are used fresh.

Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, iodine, and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. Because it is relatively rich in Vitamin C, watercress was suggested (among other plants) by English military surgeon John Woodall (1570–1643) as a remedy for scurvy.

Many benefits from eating watercress are claimed, such as that it acts as a stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It also appears to have antiangiogenic cancer-suppressing properties; it is widely believed to help defend against lung cancer. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Southampton found that consumption of watercress may also inhibit the growth of breast cancer. The content of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) in watercress inhibits HIF, which can inhibit angiogenesis.

Watercress is mentioned in the Talmud as being able to stop bleeding, when mixed with vinegar

Other Uses:
Hair; Miscellany.
The juice of the plant is a nicotine solvent and is used as such on strong tobaccos.

Known Hazards:
Whilst the plant is very wholesome and nutritious, some care should be taken if harvesting it from the wild. Any plants growing in water that drains from fields where animals, particularly sheep, graze should not be used raw. This is due to the risk of it being infested with the liver fluke parasite. Cooking the leaves, however, will destroy any parasites and render the plant perfectly safe to eat.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Nasturtium+officinale
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watercress
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail372.php

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