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Watercress – a Breast Cancer Turnoff

April 26, 2011

When Renee’s Garden Seeds offered to send me some samples to try out, Watercress went on my list.  At the time, I had no idea at the time that this tasty, nutrient-packed little weed has some amazing, newly discovered virtues. Although I’ve grown veggies for decades, cress has never been one of them, and I rarely see it offered at the farmer’s market. Here in Seattle, I’m certainly not lacking for the water that cress loves, and the peppery tang of these delicate greens brightens salads, soups and sandwiches. So, I figured why not try it?

Peppery Watercress, cheese & sourdough bites

Peppery Watercress, cheese & sourdough bites

I seeded this Brassica family plant in February, and within just a few days in my unheated greenhouse, it had germinated. I potted it into 4″ pots filled with recycled potting soil cut together with a lot of mucky worm compost, and the plants thrived immediately. Other brassicas, like broccoli and cabbage I’d seeded & potted up at the same time and into the same soil and environment did okay, but they still haven’t grown anywhere as fast as their cousin cress. Once the cress had formed multiple nodes on its hollow, floatable stems, roots formed at nearly every juncture. The plant clearly wants to cover some serious ground!

Last Sunday, as my stomach began to rumble while I was working in the greenhouse, I spied the watercress ready to be tipped back to feed me.

I grabbed my snips, and tipped a few plants for harvest (and to encourage its spreading growth). I’d been to the farmer’s market early in the morning where I’d picked up a fresh loaf of local sourdough bread from Tall Grass Bakery and a round of Camembert cheese from a local creamery. The idea of watercress topping slices of this fresh bread and cheese got my tummy rumbling even more. Paired with a warm cup of white tea with Goji berries (also from the farmer’s market), my afternoon tea break was delicious and truly healthy!

Watercress is filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants, iodine & folic acid (source). But, perhaps the most striking surprise for me was learning that this tiny little weed has proven capable of turning off breast cancer growth. If you’ve ever questioned the saying, “A weed is a plant whose virtue has yet to be discovered.” (Emerson) well, look no further than the simple aquatic edible weed cress for validation.

Now, if I make t-shirts that read “Eat your Cress; It’s Good for Your Breasts!” who wants one?

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