Ah Summer! Lazy days and balmy evenings filled with relaxed, al fresco dining and chilled drinks on ice. Sophisticated salads are the order of the day, not too heavy but satisfying, delicious and nutritious. Dorset-based chef Suze Morrison has developed some seriously different summer salads each containing lashings of British watercress, now very much in season (May – October).
Grown in Dorset and Hampshire in specialist beds dating back to Victorian times, fresh watercress is one of the healthiest veg you can buy. It not only contains over 50 vital vitamins and minerals, but gram for gram it boasts more calcium than milk, more Vitamin C than an orange, more folate than a banana and more Vitamin E than broccoli. Added to that, watercress is a rich source of fibre and of crucial antioxidants, both vital for gut health which is linked to immunity and mental health.
It’s also high in Vitamin A and rich in iron. For plant iron to be absorbed, vitamins C and A are required for the body to convert it into a more easily absorbable form such as haem iron as found in meat. The combination of high levels of vitamins A and C in watercress, makes it an outstandingly reliable and excellent source of iron compared to other veg.
Unusually for a plant, watercress has a full complement of the nine essential amino acids our bodies need to help regulate the immune function and to build muscle. The best sources of essential amino acids are generally animal proteins like meat, eggs, and poultry, so watercress is a must-have for vegans and vegetarians.
But what we all buy watercress for is the distinctive peppery kick that gives so much more ‘oomph’ to salads than limp lettuce or common cos. The familiar heat is down to the compound PEITC, which has been scientifically proven to help prevent certain cancers, and to aid post-exercise recovery by preventing DNA damage.
So, this summer, pile fresh British watercress onto your plate (it’s virtually calorie free), get a welcome fiery kick, and know you’re doing yourself a whole lot of good. Make sure to keep check our recipe pages for some of Suze’s amazing watercress recipes.