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Botanical name: Nasturtium officinale



In Europe, watercress has been known since the Middle Ages, when it was used as a vegetable and as a health remedy. However, its origin is presumably south-eastern Europe and western Asia.

Today, watercress can be found growing wild wherever it finds the optimal conditions: near clean ponds, flowing spring water, and wet ditches with water temperatures around 8–12°C.

It is very rarely planted on purpose. The most important sites of cultivation are Picardy in France and Dreibrunnenfeld near Erfurt, Germany. Small amounts are also grown in Great Britain, the USA, Belgium, the Netherlands and Brazil.


Theoretically, watercress is available the year round. However, in Germany and France the harvest is discontinued during the summer months, as there are sufficient other varieties of salad plants on the market at this time. The main harvest period is therefore from September to May.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Watercress is an evergreen water plant. Its hollow stems are pushed to the surface of the water by the shoots that creep along the floor of the body of water. Small, round, grass-green leaves sit on the stems. Inflorescence begins at the end of May and bunches of white blossoms are formed. From this point on watercress is no longer suited for consumption.

It is harvested when the shoots have reached a length of 25 cm. This is when watercress has the best flavour, which is determined by the content of bitter substances and mustard oil. Watercress typically tastes somewhat sharp and at the same time slightly bitter, similar to garden cress.


High contents of β-carotene, vitamin C and iron are characteristic of watercress. In addition, for a vegetable it is relatively rich in calcium. Its content of essential oils is approximately twice as high as that of corn salad. 100 g contain:

Watercress, fresh
Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
Fett (g)
< 1
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
Vitamin A (RÄ) (μg)
β-Carotin (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Folsäure (μg)
Niacin (NÄ) (mg)
Kalium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Phosphor (mg)
Eisen (mg)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

After being harvested watercress must be cooled quickly. Then it is tied into bundles to be sold. The bundles are available either packed in foil or standing in water.

It stays fresh longest when the shoots are placed in ice water. In any case, however, they should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will keep for several days.

Presumed effect on health

Long ago, watercress was already used as a health remedy. It was known to be a remedy for scurvy, which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. Watercress was a good supplier of vitamin C in the winter months.

Today it is still used in spring cures and is known for its purifying effect on skin and blood. It is also used for anaemia and as a diuretic.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Watercress is normally prepared as a salad. Like garden cress, it can also be eaten with bread and butter and as a soup. It is used as a seasoning, but then better without other herbs because of its own intensive flavour.

It can be delicious added to potato salad or egg salad. When it is prepared like or in combination with spinach, tasty dishes can be created.


If you are searching for watercress yourself, pay attention to what plants you actually collect. Watercress is easily confused with cardamine, or bittercress. A clear distinguishing feature is the shoots. Those of watercress are hollow, while those of cardamine are pithy. Should you nevertheless eat cardamine by accident there is no reason to worry, as it is not poisonous.





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