The UK isn’t known for it’s excellent farming and exotic crops. But, that doesn’t stop the British schooling system from trying to educate children about food and farming at a young age. And I’ll be honest, ‘educate’ is a bit of a push, but they tried their best.
I’m not sure whether this happens in other countries across the world, but Primary schools in the UK have an obsession with watercress. Every school child hits the age of 5-6 years old and has to undertake a right of passage that involves growing their own cress. This isn’t a new thing. Ask generations of adults and they will be able to recollect a faint memory of growing watercress as a child in school.
What is watercress?
Let’s lay down the foundations before we get into the nitty-gritty about watercress and it’s an infinite number of benefits. Watercress is a vegetable, and it’s part of the cruciferous family along with broccoli and kale (the ones that make you a little gassy). It’s a dark leafy green and more often than not, the darker the leaf the more nutrient-dense it is.
For the last few decades, watercress has served very little purpose in a dish except to be used as a garnish. So you can imagine that most of it went to waste when you grew it as a child. However, watercress is making a comeback on the food scene because we’re starting to realise just how many nutrients are packed into those tiny leaves.
Although watercress is now being branded as a ‘superfood’ my grandma must have known it all along. Mum tells me about the cheese and watercress sandwiches her mum used to make her, so it looks like we’re pretty far behind on this one.
Watercress is full of nutrients that include:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
I could keep going, but I don’t think you’re here to read a list of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables. But it’s important to know that adding watercress to your dishes could increase the nutritional value of any meal.
Give it a go yourself
Don’t worry, growing watercress isn’t child’s play, adults can join in the fun too. The reason it’s grown in schools is because it’s borderline impossible to go wrong. Although by the look of my droopy plants, I’m sure I could give it a good go at killing it. If you want to grow your own watercress at home, here are a few points to remember:
- Place the compost in small containers on a windowsill with plenty of light. The containers should have holes in for water to drain.
- Sprinkle the seeds on top of the compost between March-April, there’s no need to cover them.
- Keep the containers on a tray of water and refresh twice weekly.
- Once they have grown 2 inches high, cut and use the watercress.
If my grandma was putting watercress on sandwiches in the 70s and 80s, then you definitely should be too.