Wednesday, April 22, 2020

WATERCRESS (Nasturtium officinale)

Watercress is usually associated with shallow streams and something to be foraged while out in the country.  Then here on Oahu, we have the spring fed Watercress farm that sits next to Pearl City Shopping Center which is a fascinating green space in the middle of suburbia.  I expect most of the Watercress that we see in our supermarkets come from there.

The gardening secret is that you can use that bunch of bought Watercress to get your own growing in your garden and you do not need a flowing stream to do it.  As long as the plant gets lots of water it is easily grown in garden soil or in a large container.  Pluck most of the leaves off your bought Watercress to enjoy for dinner and stand the stalks in a jar of water for a few days until roots start growing from the nodes in the stems.  Change out the water daily.  When the roots get going a few inches plant up your Watercress in soil.

I have my Watercress growing in a large shallow tub.  It could have a big saucer underneath to help retain water but so far it has not seemed to need it although the growth is noticeably better in the rainy season.  My container of Watercress gets some light shade as it is with other leafy greens kept under the curry leaf tree.  The starts came from a neighbors aquaculture tank. He had a rotating system of water from a tilapia fish tank to flush through and feed his Watercress.  My Watercress can grow quite long so that I occasionally shear it back to a few inches tall with scissors to encourage fresh new growth.  I give it some high nitrogen fertilizer every few months. The leaves go bitter after flowers form so trimming back the plant on a regular basis stops the flowering too.

Watercress is highly nutritious in vitamins and minerals so I add the peppery leaves to salads and stir fries.  Plus, in a recent AARP magazine article about lung health it said:

                   Choose Watercress not Lettuce
                  "Watercress releases a compound called phenethyl isothiocynate which
                    helps block the progression of lung cancer and helps to ease
                    respiratory inflammation"

Something to take note of while we are all doing battle with the corona virus pandemic.
Take care and enjoy your time in the garden as we stay isolated at home.


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