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Watercress

Watercress
Nasturtium officinale
Nasturtium officinale
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Nasturtium
Species: N. officinale
Binomial name
Nasturtium officinale
W.T. Aiton
Synonyms[1]

Watercress is an aquatic plant species with the botanical name Nasturtium officinale. This should not be confused with the quite different group of plants with the common name of nasturtium, botanical name Tropaeolum.

Watercress is a rapidly growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. It is currently a member of the family Brassicaceae, botanically related to garden cress, mustard, radish and wasabi—all noteworthy for their piquant flavor.

The hollow stems of watercress are floating, and the leaves are pinnately compound. Small, white and green flowers are produced in clusters and are frequently visited by insects, especially hoverflies such as Eristalis flies.[2]

Contents

  • Taxonomy 1
  • Cultivation 2
  • Distribution 3
  • Health benefits 4
    • Side effects 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Taxonomy

Watercress is also listed in some sources as belonging to the genus Rorippa, although molecular evidence shows the aquatic species with hollow stems are more closely related to Cardamine than Rorippa.[3] Despite the Latin name, watercress is not particularly closely related to the flowers popularly known as nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus); T. majus belongs to the family Tropaeolaceae, a sister taxon to the Brassicaceae within the order Brassicales.

Cultivation

Watercress beds in Warnford, Hampshire.

Cultivation of watercress is practical on both a large-scale and a garden-scale. Being semi-aquatic, watercress is well-suited to hydroponic cultivation, thriving best in water that is slightly alkaline. It is frequently produced around the headwaters of chalk streams. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown watercress exceeds supply, partly because cress leaves are unsuitable for distribution in dried form, and can only be stored fresh for a short period.

Watercress can be sold in supermarkets in sealed plastic bags, containing a little moisture and lightly pressurised to prevent crushing of contents. This has allowed national availability with a once-purchased storage life of one to two days in chilled/refrigerated storage.

Also sold as sprouts, the edible shoots are harvested days after germination. If unharvested, watercress can grow to a height of 50 to 120 centimetres (1 12–4 ft). Like many plants in this family, the foliage of watercress becomes bitter when the plants begin producing flowers.

Distribution

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.

In the United Kingdom, watercress was first commercially cultivated in 1808 by the horticulturist William Bradbery, along the River Ebbsfleet in Kent. Watercress is now grown in a number of counties of the United Kingdom, most notably Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The town of Alresford, near Winchester, holds a Watercress Festival that brings in more than 15,000 visitors every year, and a preserved steam railway line has been named after the local crop. In recent years, watercress has become more widely available in the UK, at least in the southeast; it is stocked pre-packed in some supermarkets, as well as fresh by the bunch at farmers' markets and greengrocers.

In the United States in the 1940s, Huntsville, Alabama, was locally known as the "watercress capital of the world"[4] with Alresford in the U.K. is considered to be that nation's watercress capital.[5]

Health benefits

Watercress, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 46 kJ (11 kcal)
1.29 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Dietary fiber 0.5 g
Fat
0.1 g
2.3 g
Vitamins
Vitamin A equiv.
(20%)
160 μg
(18%)
1914 μg
5767 μg
Thiamine (B1)
(8%)
0.09 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
(10%)
0.12 mg
(6%)
0.31 mg
Vitamin B6
(10%)
0.129 mg
Folate (B9)
(2%)
9 μg
Vitamin C
(52%)
43 mg
Vitamin E
(7%)
1 mg
Vitamin K
(238%)
250 μg
Minerals
Calcium
(12%)
120 mg
Iron
(2%)
0.2 mg
Magnesium
(6%)
21 mg
Manganese
(12%)
0.244 mg
Phosphorus
(9%)
60 mg
Potassium
(7%)
330 mg
Sodium
(3%)
41 mg

Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, iodine, manganese, and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A, B6, C, and K.[6] 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. Watercress is also a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids primarily in the form of 16:3 n-3 (hexadecatrienoic acid) at 45 mg/100 g.[7]

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.[8] The content of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) in watercress inhibits HIF, which can inhibit angiogenesis.

Side effects

Watercress crops grown in the presence of manure can be a haven for parasites such as the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica.[9] Watercress is a known inhibitor of the cytochrome P450 CYP2E1, which may result in altered drug metabolism for individuals on certain medications such as chlorzoxazone.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ R.Br.Nasturtium officinaleThe Plant List,
  2. ^ Van Der Kooi, C. J.; Pen, I.; Staal, M.; Stavenga, D. G.; Elzenga, J. T. M. (2015). "Competition for pollinators and intra-communal spectral dissimilarity of flowers" (PDF). Plant Biology.  
  3. ^ Al-Shehbaz, Ihsan A.; Price, Robert A. (June 1998). "Delimitation of the genus Nasturtium (Brassicaceae)". Novon 8 (2): 124–6.  
  4. ^ "Huntsville's Missile Payload", MotherJones.com, July 2001.
  5. ^ Peters, Rick (30 March 2010). "Seasonal food: watercress". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Watercress Nutritional Analysis". Southern Europe Fruits And Vegetables. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  7. ^ Pereira, C; Li, D; Sinclair, A. J. (2001). "The alpha-linolenic acid content of green vegetables commonly available in Australia". International journal for vitamin and nutrition research 71 (4): 223–8.  
  8. ^ Watercress soup and the health benefits of watercress
  9. ^ CDC Parasites & Health: Fascioliasis
  10. ^ Leclercq, I; Desager, J. P.; Horsmans, Y (August 1998). "Inhibition of chlorzoxazone metabolism, a clinical probe for CYP2E1, by a single ingestion of watercress". Clin Pharmacol Ther. 64 (2): 144–9.  

External links

  • Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (ITIS)
  • GLANSIS Species Fact Sheet
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