Upland cress vs watercress

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There are so many reasons to love watercress, not the least of which is how good for you it is. (According to the CDC, it’s the most nutrient-dense vegetable you can eat.)

Despite all of its wonderfulness, mature watercress has thick, woody stems that aren’t yummy or even easy to eat, and that make the greens a bit annoying to prep. So when faced with the choice, I used to buy baby arugula instead.

But this winter I noticed a couple alternatives in grocery stores: bagged baby watercress and upland cress. Both were in the specialty produce section, hidden away from the rest of the salad greens, but once I knew where to find them, I was hooked.

Photo by B&W Quality Growers

B&W Quality Growers started harvesting and selling the baby variety of watercress this year, after hearing from chefs and consumers that mature watercress is difficult to prepare. Their new product has less stem, and the stems it does have are tender and easy to eat. It’s the only baby watercress sold in grocery stores right now, and they’re able to offer it year-round across the country thanks to a system farms in eight states with different climates. I find the baby watercress to be super flavorful and fresh, and I’ve been using it in all the same ways I’ve used mature watercress: in a salad with warm mustard dressing, and even in my morning smoothies.

As for upland cress, it isn’t actually watercress at all, but rather a watercress look-alike. Usually sold with the roots still attached, upland cress has the same flavor and nutrient density as watercress, but its stems and leaves are thinner and more tender, like baby watercress.

Brian Cook, the VP of marketing and sales over at Hollandia produce, the biggest producer of upland cress in the states, helps sort out the difference between the two cresses: “While they both stem from the nutrient rich Brassica family, watercress and upland cress are from a different genus, or family of plants. Watercress is from the genus Nasturtium. Upland Cress, on the other hand, is from the genus Barbarea.”

Photo by Hollandia Produce

When you buy upland cress that’s attached to the roots, you shouldn’t cut it off the roots until just before you’re ready to use it. It’ll keep longer in the fridge (up to a week) but you can also keep it out on the counter—either way, check the roots after a few days and add a splash of water if they’re drying out. Cook advises against removing it from it’s packaging: “A lot of research and innovation goes into the packaging we use for our products. It is best to keep them in the same packaging and seal them appropriately” to ensure freshness.

Snipping upland cress off the roots into my salad bowl is about as close to gardening as I get these days, so I actually relish the experience. And I’d much rather be snipping off roots than tough, woody stems.

Watercress: Kale’s Underused Cousin

Types of watercress

While watercress (Nasturtium officinale) can easily be found in most markets, there are two other less well-known watercress relatives that are also occasionally available, usually in specialty food stores or farmers’ markets.

  • Garden cress (curly cress, pepper cress): Like watercress, garden cress (Lepidium sativum) has a pungent, peppery flavor and can be used in lieu of traditional watercress in recipes. Some types have curly leaves. A similar species, wild peppergrass (L. virginicum) is not cultivated, but can be picked for salads.
  • Upland cress (winter cress, broadleaf cress, creasy greens): Resembling watercress in both form and flavor, upland cress (Barbarea verna) produces very small, almost square, green leaves that have a slight notching on the leaf margins. The stems can grow 6 to 8 inches long.

How to buy the best watercress

Choose watercress with bright green, unwilted leaves and crisp, moist stems. There should be no sign of yellowing or wilting.

If you’re picking your own, beware that the poisonous marshwort or “fool’s cress” (Apium nodiflorum) is often mistaken for watercress, and sometimes grows alongside watercress. Fool’s cress may rbe distinguished by its hemlock-like white flowers, and when out of flower, by its finely toothed and somewhat pointed leaves, which are much longer than those of watercress and of a paler green color.

How to store watercress at home

You can place a bunch of watercress, stems down, in a container of water like a bouquet of flowers. Cover it loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate; it will keep for two or three days. Don’t put watercress in the vegetable crisper, where it’s likely to get bruised and crushed.

How to prepare watercress

Wash watercress just before using. Trim the bottom inch or so off the stems, then cut the band or string that holds the bunch and drop the watercress into a basin of water. Swish the watercress in the water, and then lift it out, leaving any dirt behind in the basin. Repeat the process if necessary.

7 watercress recipe ideas

  1. Sprinkle chopped watercress over scrambled eggs.
  2. Make a salad dressing by blending watercress with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and some olive oil.
  3. Make a hearty watercress-potato soup. Serve hot in winter, and chilled in the warm days of summer.
  4. Toss watercress with chunks of roasted beet and herbed goat cheese for a filling watercress salad.
  5. Stir chopped watercress into a potato salad.
  6. Blend chopped watercress with Neufchâtel or yogurt cheese for a sandwich spread.
  7. Quickly steam or stir-fry watercress as you would spinach and eat it as a side dish.

Also see Three Cheers for Watercress.

Teczcape-An Escape to Food

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What to know about watercress

Share on PinterestWatercress may have protective effects against cancer.

Consuming all types of fruits and vegetables, including watercress, has links to better overall health.

According to a 2019 review of studies, eating a range of fruits and vegetables can reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases.

As a consequence of this, these food groups also seem to decrease the risk of premature mortality and disability.

Cancer prevention and treatment

A 2019 review showed that a compound in cruciferous vegetables that scientists call 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) has protective effects against cancer.

Recent research in test tubes and animals has concluded that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables has an association with a lower risk of triple-negative breast cancer and bladder cancer.

Studies have suggested that a compound called sulforaphane is also what gives these vegetables their beneficial effects against cancer. This is a compound that contains sulfur and gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter taste.

Authors of a 2015 test tube study found that sulforaphane can inhibit the activity of the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC) in some cancer cells. HDAC can contribute to cancer progression.

The ability to interfere with HDAC enzymes could mean that foods containing sulforaphane potentially support cancer management. Further investigation is necessary, however.

Lowering blood pressure

People who do not consume enough calcium, magnesium, and potassium in their diets are more likely to have high blood pressure.

These minerals are thought to bring blood pressure down by releasing sodium from the body and helping arteries dilate.

It is important to note that taking these minerals in supplement form will not provide the same health benefits as consuming them as part of a healthful diet.

Watercress contains all three of these healthy minerals and can help improve intake.

According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates such as watercress have multiple benefits for the blood vessels.

These benefits include reducing blood pressure, inhibiting the buildup of platelets, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.

In general, research has shown that a diet containing all types of fruits and vegetables may help a person maintain healthy blood pressure.

Maintaining healthy bones

A low intake of vitamin K can increase an individual’s risk of bone fracture.

Adequate vitamin K consumption improves bone health by modifying the proteins that form bone, improving how the body absorbs calcium, and reducing the amount of calcium that a person loses in their urine.

Eating just one cup of watercress a day would help a person meet their daily requirement of vitamin K.

Watercress is also a good source of calcium, which further supports bone development and strength.

Treating diabetes

Watercress contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. This compound can:

  • lower glucose levels
  • increase insulin sensitivity
  • prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in people with diabetes

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown that it can decrease nerve damage in people with diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved supplementary alpha-lipoic acid to treat diabetic neuropathy. However, its effects in the diet are still unclear.

A 2019 study on 60 women with gestational diabetes found that daily supplementation of alpha-lipoic acid reduces several markers of the condition.

A 2019 study on 135 participants with type 2 diabetes found that a 600 milligram (mg) dose of alpha-lipoic acid significantly reduced many signs of the condition.

However, most studies on alpha-lipoic acid used intravenous doses. There is uncertainty whether consuming alpha-lipoic acid in the diet provides the same benefits.

Read more on the 10 best foods for managing diabetes.

Providing dietary nitrates

Watercress, along with beetroot and other leafy greens, contains a very high level of dietary nitrate, which increases nitric oxide and can have positive effects on health.

A 2019 study on rats showed that a high intake of dietary nitrate could lower blood pressure.

A study of the effects of a high dose of dietary nitrates on humans demonstrated that it may reduce the amount of oxygen a person needs during exercise and enhance athletic performance.

However, another study found that a moderate intake of dietary nitrates does not appear to have the same effects on exercise. Other studies found that watercress does not improve exercise performance.

Further research in this area is necessary to confirm the benefits of dietary nitrates.

Know A Superfood: Why Watercress Is Such A Powerhouse Vegetable

Everyone knows it’s a good idea to incorporate more green, leafy vegetables into your diet, but we might be paying too much attention to the likes of kale and spinach at the expense of some lesser-known—but just as nutritious—plants. Case in point: watercress.

What Is Watercress?

Watercress is a great example of a superfood that’s a little under the radar. It makes sense: A small plant with delicate leaves, watercress looks so unassuming. But this cruciferous veggie is actually related to horseradish and mustard greens, and all it takes is a taste of raw watercress to discover its potent, peppery spiciness. And when you cook it, watercress releases a surprisingly strong flowery aroma.

When talking about these and other great assets that watercress brings to the (dinner) table, Plated Head Chef Elana Karp makes her appreciation clear: “Watercress is an awesome, wild green. We on the Culinary Team love it because it has a peppery flavor, similar to arugula, but with a different—yet beautiful—shape, and a crispier texture.”

What Are Its Nutritional Benefits?

Beyond the vegetable’s great taste lie a ton of nutritional benefits. Last year, the Center for Disease Control put out a study that determined “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables—the ones most strongly associated with reducing the risk of chronic disease. Each food was given a Nutrient Density Score, the highest being 100, with higher-ranking foods providing more nutrients per calorie. Only one food was assigned a perfect score: watercress.

Very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, watercress is a great source of

Vitamin B6
Vitamin A
Vitamin C

It even compares favorably to other healthy veggies and fruits, containing more vitamin C than oranges, and four times more beta-carotene and vitamin A than apples, tomatoes, and broccoli. By integrating into your eating routine, you’re loading up on all of the above.

What’s The Best Way To Eat It?

You can enjoy watercress fresh and raw, when its most potent nutrients are in full effect. In this form, it has a bitter tang to it, making it a perfect addition to plain or neutral foods: Toss it into a salad of mild greens or use it as a replacement for lettuce in sandwiches.

You can also cook watercress, but be careful—you’ll want to simply wilt the delicate leaves without turning them to mush. If you’d like, follow the guidelines of recipes like our Balsamic Chicken with Bleu Cheese and Watercress Salad.

That dish, like our Asian Flatiron Steak with Watercress Salad, showcases the buttery softness and earthy flavors watercress can have when cooked.

Strong on nutrition and unexpectedly bold in flavor, watercress is the superfood that we all could probably use a bit more of in our lives. Consider buying a bag during your next trip to the grocery store and try your hand at one of the recipes above. Be sure to share your #platedpics on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and let us know how you liked it!

Watercress 101

Everything you need to know about how to use watercress, including the different varieties, how to store it, nutrition information, and more!

It’s finally spring, which means the watercress is hitting the stands! And as we gear up for our watercress spotlight, let’s learn a bit about this leafy green first.

For those unfamiliar with this veg, watercress is one of the oldest leafy greens us humans have eaten. It’s a water-growing plant that’s in the same family as mustard and cabbage, giving it a distinctly spicy, peppery, pungent flavor.

How to Buy Watercress

Similarly to how you would buy spinach or kale, when buying watercress in the grocery look for dark, crisp leaves that are free from bruised or yellow spots.

Types of Watercress

In addition to traditional water cress, there are a few varieties which are nearly interchangeable with it. These are actually different plant species, all differing a bit in flavor and texture.

  • Garden Cress: Spicier flavor, like horse radish.
  • Upland Cress: Thinner stems and more delicate flavor. This variety often comes in plastic bags, with the cress still attached to the roots.
  • Korean Watercress: More crunchy and bitter.

How to Store Watercress

Like most leafy greens, watercress is highly perishable so you should only store it for a couple of days. If you bought it in a bunch, either:

  • Wrap the stems in a damp cloth and cover the leafy end with a plastic bag, or…
  • Place the stems in a glass of water (like we do with parsley) and wrap the leafy ends in a plastic bag

(Both methods of storing watercress should be stored in the fridge).

How to Prepare Watercress

Rinse and pat dry, then cut off the thick parts of the stems. Then you can either saute it for about a minute (as you would spinach), steam it, or eat it raw! Here are a few of our favorite watercress recipes:

  • Watercress Pesto
  • Watercress Citrus Salad
  • Watercress Green Smoothie

Watercress Nutrition Information

per 1 cup (34 g)

  • Calories: 4
  • Carbohydrates: 0.4 g
  • Fiber: 0.2 g, 0% Daily Value (DV)
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • 106% DV of Vitamin K: A fat-soluble vitamin that allows for activation of enzymes in the clotting cascade, which is responsible for blood clotting. Also builds bone by modifying osteocalcin so that it may bind calcium, thus building the bone matrix.
  • 24% DV of Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to fight against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) and an important cofactor in collagen synthesis.
  • 21% DV of Vitamin A: Provides the provitamin version of this fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it comes from a plant source and your body converts the plant pigment into active Vitamin A. It is essential in many components of healthy vision, as well as immunity and cell growth/differentiation.

Care Of Land Cress Plants: Information And Tips For Growing Upland Cress

Cress is an all-purpose name encompassing three major cresses: watercress (Nasturtium officinale), garden cress (Lepidium sativum) and upland cress (Barbarea verna). This article is concerned with upland, or land cress plants. So what is upland cress and what other useful information can we dig up about land cress cultivation?

What is Upland Cress?

There are many names for upland or land cress plants. Amongst these are:

  • American cress
  • Garden cress
  • Dryland cress
  • Cassabully
  • Winter cress

In the southeastern states, you’ll see/hear this plant referred to as:

  • Creasy salad
  • Creasy greens
  • Highland creasy

In that region, growing upland cress can often be found growing as a weed. Although similar in taste and growth habit, land cress is much easier to grow vs. watercress.

The plants are cultivated for their edible, sharp tasting leaves which are small and somewhat square in shape with a slight serration of the leaf margins. Looking and tasting very much like watercress only with a stronger peppery flavor, upland cress is used in salads or in herb mixes. It can be eaten raw or cooked like other greens such as or kale. All parts of the plant are edible and rich in vitamins, iron and calcium.

Land Cress Cultivation

Growing upland cress is very easy, although with much confusion regarding its name. When purchasing seeds, it’s best to refer to the plant by its botanical name of Barbarea verna.

Land cress thrives in cool, moist soil and partial shade. This mustard family member bolts quickly in hot weather. It is grown in the spring and fall and is hardy through mild freezes. To ensure a continuous supply of the tender young leaves, it’s best to sow successive plantings. Since it’s hardy, covering the plants with a cloche or other protection will allow continual picking throughout the winter.

Prepare the bed for growing upland cress by removing clods, plant detritus and weeds and rake it smooth and level. Broadcast and work into the soil prior to planting, 3 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. Plant the seeds only about ½ inch deep in moist soil. Because the seeds are so small, plant them densely to be followed by thinning. Space the rows 12 inches apart with plants spaced 3-6 inches within the row. When the seedlings are large enough, thin them to 4 inches apart.

Keep the plants well watered and wait patiently for seven to eight weeks until upland cress harvesting time. If the leaves lose their deep green hue and turn yellowish green, side dress with 6 ounces of 10-10-10 for each 100 feet of row. Be sure to do this when the plants are dry to avoid burning them.

Upland Cress Harvesting

The leaves of upland cress can be harvested once the plant is about 4 inches high. Simply pluck the leaves from the plant, leaving the stem and roots intact to form more leaves. Cutting the plant will encourage additional growth.

You may also harvest the entire plant if you desire. For prime leaves, harvest before the plant blooms or the leaves may become tough and bitter.

Upland Cress

Green Seed

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lepidium sativum, Barbarea verna, Nasturtium officinale
CULTURE: Wrinkled Crinkled and Cressida Cress: sow shallowly in a 2-4″ wide band, early spring through early fall or indoors, year-round, in a flat, about 20 seeds/in. Begin harvest in 7-10 days when 2″ tall. Sow every 2 weeks for a steady supply. Upland Cress: direct seed from mid-spring onward, about 15 seeds/ft., 1/4″ deep. Keep soil moist as the seed germinates slowly. Thin to 4-6″ apart. Pick individual leaves or clip full rosettes at the root. Watercress: direct seed about ½” apart, ¼” deep. Thin to 4″ apart and keep well-watered, or start seed indoors, keeping the soil moist. Transplant to large pots, cold frame, or field with soil that is fertile, humus-rich, well-limed, and has a pH around 7.0. Keep soil moist or sit pots in pans of water and renew water daily.
SEED SPECS: Wrinkled Crinkled and Cressida Cress: Avg. 11,600 seeds/oz. Upland Cress: Avg. 22,800 seeds/oz. Watercress: Avg. 133,700 seeds/oz.
PACKET: Wrinkled Crinkled and Cressida Cress: 250 seeds, sows 12 sq.in. Upland Cress: 250 seeds, sows 15′. Watercress: 250 seeds.

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