Watercress is an annual herbaceous plant extremely easy to grow and fast developing. It finds many different uses in the kitchen thanks to the tenderness of its leaves and their slightly spicy flavor: it goes well with other vegetables, cooked or inside salads, or in the classic combination with cheeses (very famous as a filling for piadina). In Italy it is cultivated assiduously especially in some specific regions, but it is appreciated and known almost everywhere.
The Latin name is Lepidium sativum, it is an annual plant, of Asian origin, spread for centuries in most of the northern hemisphere, in areas with a cool climate, as a wild plant; the appearance is that of a weed, in fact it develops a small bush, with pinnate leaves, and small white flowers in summer; watercress is used fresh in the kitchen, therefore it is advisable to collect its small and young leaves, and use them within a few days; it does not freeze and does not dry out, so if we want to grow it in the garden the best thing is to practice scalar sowing, starting from April, every 15 days, until June. The small reddish watercress seeds germinate very quickly with temperatures above 15 ° C, in a couple of weeks we can go from sowing to harvesting the first small leaves.
Watercress is also used to produce sprouts, given the rapid germination, and the high production of seeds of each plant. The sprouts are obtained in about a week, they are kept in the fridge for about fifteen days, so we remember to prepare a small amount of sprouts every time, to avoid having to throw most of them.
Watercress in the kitchen
Watercress has a strong acidic and spicy flavor, it is generally used raw, to flavor salads and sandwiches, or even cut and mixed with fresh cheeses, sauces, and mashed vegetables. The taste disappears almost completely in the cooked plant, therefore it is always used raw, and possibly fresh.
In Italy it is an aromatic plant quite difficult to find on the market, it is therefore advisable to grow it in the vegetable garden if we want to eat it; the seeds are readily available, even in large quantities, to prepare the sprouts.