Just upstream from where I harvest ramps, I found a nice patch of watercress, a perennial green which grows wild in shallow areas of streams and has a wonderful peppery taste.
Watercress is especially tender in the spring, and can be used fresh in salads, or as an ingredient in soup. It is high in vitamin C and minerals. It can be used all season, but once it flowers, it may become bitter.
Be sure that you know the source of the water from which you are harvesting and that the water is clean. Don’t harvest downstream from any industrial plants or large farms.
Manure may cause the water to have liver flukes, a parasite which may infect people.
The roots of the watercress grow in the water, with the leaves growing just above the water. I find it easiest to harvest the watercress using scissors, cutting the plant just at the level of the water. Leaving the roots assures a future crop, and makes clean up at home a lot easier.
Be sure when you are cutting watercress that you don’t cut other, non-edible plants as well.
Wash the watercress in cold water, removing any remaining roots or other debris. Adding 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide per quart of water will kill any bacteria. Allow the watercress to sit in the water for about 20 minutes before draining and rinsing.
This delicious watercress soup recipe uses 4 cups of cleaned watercress. I use homemade chicken (or beef) bone broth as the base, and potatoes and heavy cream make this a creamy treat.
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Homemade Creamy Watercress Soup
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion chopped
- 6 cups beef or chicken bone broth
- 4 large potatoes peeled and cubed
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cups young watercress leaves and stems cleaned
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Saute the chopped onion in butter until translucent.
- Add the chicken broth, cubed potatoes and seasonings.
- Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
- Add the watercress and simmer for several more minutes.
- Blend your soup with an immersion blender, or very carefully in a regular blender.
- Remove from the heat and stir in a cup of heavy cream.
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