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Nasturtium officinale

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Black Mustard, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Hoary Whitlowgrass, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Pinnate Coralroot, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, marshes, meadows, ponds, riversides, rocky places, swamps, water, waterside, wetland, woodland.

White, 4 petals
The flowers of watercress are small and delicate, typically featuring four white petals arranged in a cross-like shape, characteristic of the Brassicaceae family. These tiny flowers are often clustered in loose, umbrella-shaped inflorescences at the ends of branching stems. While the individual flowers are not showy, they collectively contribute to the overall appeal of the plant. Watercress flowers bloom above the water surface in its natural aquatic habitats, adding a subtle charm to the lush green foliage.
Watercress produces small, elongated seed pods, known as siliques, which are the fruiting structures of the plant. These slender pods can reach a few centimeters in length and develop along the stems after the flowering stage. The siliques contain small, round seeds and are often green or brown in color. While not a prominent feature, the fruit contributes to the reproductive cycle of watercress, eventually releasing seeds into the surrounding environment to ensure the plant's propagation.
The leaves are pinnate with between 3 and 9 narrowly oval leaflets. Terminal leaflets are the largest leaflets. The leaves are not hairy and reach a maximum of 4 inches long. The stems and leaves may float on water, or be aerial.
Watercress does not typically have a strong or distinct scent. The plant is primarily valued for its peppery flavor in culinary applications rather than for any notable fragrance. In its natural state, the scent of watercress is generally subtle, allowing its fresh and mildly peppery taste to take precedence. When handling or crushing the leaves, a faint herbal aroma may be released, but it is not a prominent feature of the plant. The focus on watercress is often on its culinary attributes rather than its olfactory characteristics.
Other Names:
Brown Cress, Greencress, Indian Cress, Tall Nasturtium, True Watercress, Yellowcress.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Nasturtium officinale, commonly known as watercress or yellowcress, is a species of aquatic flowering plant in the cabbage family Brassicaceae. It is native to California, and also found elsewhere in North America and beyond. It is a perennial herb with prostrate to erect stems that root at the proximal nodes. The leaves are pinnately compound and petioled, with simple or 0 hairs. It is considered an aquatic plant, growing at the surface of cold lakes and slow-moving streams. Nasturtium officinale is used as a home remedy by the people of south eastern Iran as a medicinal plant, and is used in salads and other food dishes.


Watercress: A Nutritious and Versatile Green

Watercress, scientifically known as Nasturtium officinale, is a leafy green that has been enjoyed for centuries as a culinary ingredient and for its health benefits. With its crisp, tangy flavor, watercress is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and salads to sandwiches and smoothies.

Health Benefits of Watercress

Watercress is an incredibly nutritious food, packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have numerous health benefits. It is a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and folic acid, making it an excellent addition to a well-balanced diet.

One of the most notable health benefits of watercress is its high concentration of antioxidants, which help to protect cells from damage and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Additionally, watercress contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help to reduce inflammation in the body and support overall health.

Including Watercress in Your Diet

Watercress can be easily incorporated into a variety of dishes for added flavor and nutrition. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Salad: Toss watercress with other greens and veggies for a crunchy, flavorful salad.

  • Sandwiches: Use watercress as a sandwich filling, or simply add a handful to your favorite sandwich recipe.

  • Smoothies: Blend watercress with other ingredients such as spinach, banana, and almond milk for a nutritious and delicious smoothie.

  • Soups: Add watercress to soups and stews for added flavor and nutrition.

Whether you enjoy it as a snack, a side dish, or a main course, watercress is a delicious and nutritious food that is sure to be a welcome addition to your diet.

In conclusion, watercress is a leafy green that is not only delicious but also incredibly nutritious, offering numerous health benefits. Whether you are looking to boost your vitamin and mineral intake or just want to add some flavor and crunch to your dishes, watercress is a great choice. So next time you're at the grocery store, be sure to pick up a bunch of this versatile green and enjoy its many benefits.

Growing Watercress

Watercress is a hardy and easy-to-grow plant, making it a great choice for those who are interested in growing their own food. It grows best in cool, clear water and is often grown in streams, ponds, or water gardens.

If you are growing watercress in a container, be sure to use a container that is at least 8 inches deep and fill it with a mixture of soil and compost. Place the container in a sunny location and keep the water level just above the soil surface. Watercress will grow quickly and can be harvested in as little as 4 to 6 weeks.

When harvesting watercress, be sure to pick the leaves from the top of the plant, leaving the bottom leaves to continue growing. Regular harvesting will also encourage the plant to continue producing new leaves.

Cooking with Watercress

Watercress is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and salads to sandwiches and smoothies. Its crisp, tangy flavor adds a burst of flavor to any dish, and its tender leaves make it a great addition to recipes that don't require much cooking.

Watercress is also a great ingredient for making pesto, as its tangy flavor pairs well with other ingredients such as basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Simply blend watercress with the other ingredients in a food processor, and enjoy as a pasta sauce or as a spread on sandwiches and toast.

Another popular way to enjoy watercress is in a salad, either on its own or mixed with other greens. Toss watercress with other ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and a tangy vinaigrette for a delicious and nutritious salad.

Watercress and Traditional Medicine

In addition to its culinary uses and nutritional benefits, watercress has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans believed that watercress had numerous health benefits and used it to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems and skin disorders.

In traditional Chinese medicine, watercress is believed to have cooling properties and is used to treat conditions such as inflammation, high blood pressure, and fever.

While the medicinal properties of watercress have not been extensively studied, its high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants suggests that it may have potential health benefits. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of watercress and its role in traditional medicine.

Nutrition and Safety

Watercress is an incredibly nutritious food, offering a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. It is also low in calories, making it an excellent choice for those who are looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet.

However, it is important to note that watercress can contain high levels of nitrates, which can be harmful in large amounts. To reduce your risk of nitrate exposure, it is recommended that you rinse watercress thoroughly before eating and consume it in moderation.

Watercress is generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderation, but those with allergies or food sensitivities may want to avoid it. Additionally, pregnant women and those with kidney problems should talk to their doctor before incorporating watercress into their diet.

In conclusion, watercress is a nutritious and versatile green that has a long history of use in traditional medicine. With its tangy flavor, crisp texture, and numerous health benefits, it is a great choice for anyone looking to add more nutrition to their diet. However, it is important to consume it in moderation and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

30 Wonderful Watercress Facts

  1. Botanical Marvel: Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard and cabbage.

  2. Aquatic Herb: It is a semiaquatic plant that thrives in slow-moving water or wet soil, often found near springs and streams.

  3. Ancient Culinary Use: Watercress has a rich culinary history, dating back to ancient times. The Romans are known to have cultivated it over 2,000 years ago.

  4. Peppery Flavor: The leaves of watercress have a distinct peppery taste, adding a unique flavor to salads, sandwiches, and various dishes.

  5. Nutrient-Rich: This leafy green is a powerhouse of nutrients, packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like iron and calcium.

  6. Superfood Status: Due to its exceptional nutritional profile, watercress is often hailed as a superfood, supporting overall health and well-being.

  7. Natural Filter: Watercress is known for its ability to absorb and filter pollutants from water, making it an excellent choice for water purification projects.

  8. Health Benefits: Regular consumption of watercress is associated with various health benefits, including improved digestion, strengthened immune system, and reduced oxidative stress.

  9. Rich in Antioxidants: The plant contains a high level of antioxidants, helping to combat free radicals and protect cells from damage.

  10. Traditional Medicine: Historically, watercress has been used in traditional medicine for its diuretic properties and as a remedy for various ailments, including coughs and skin conditions.

  11. Culinary Versatility: Beyond salads, watercress can be used in soups, sauces, and even blended into smoothies for an added nutritional boost.

  12. Easy to Grow: Watercress is relatively easy to cultivate, and it can be grown hydroponically or in moist soil.

  13. Rapid Growth: It is known for its rapid growth rate, and under optimal conditions, it can double its biomass in just a week.

  14. Global Distribution: While native to Europe and Asia, watercress is now found in many parts of the world and is cultivated commercially.

  15. Edible Flowers: In addition to the leaves, the flowers of watercress are also edible and can be used to garnish dishes.

  16. Cress Sandwich Tradition: In the UK, watercress sandwiches are a classic, often enjoyed in afternoon tea settings.

  17. Low-Calorie Food: Despite its rich nutrient content, watercress is low in calories, making it a healthy option for those watching their caloric intake.

  18. Hydration Source: With its high water content, consuming watercress contributes to hydration, supporting overall bodily functions.

  19. Popular in French Cuisine: Watercress is a staple in French cuisine, where it is often featured in salads, soups, and as a garnish for various dishes.

  20. Banned in Some Regions: Due to its potential to harbor a parasitic flatworm (Fasciola hepatica), watercress consumption has been restricted in some regions.

  21. Culinary Pairing: Watercress pairs well with citrus fruits, nuts, and creamy cheeses, creating a delightful balance of flavors.

  22. Source of Phytonutrients: The plant contains various phytonutrients, contributing to its potential anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.

  23. Traditional Symbolism: In certain cultures, watercress is associated with cleansing and purification rituals.

  24. Used in Pesto: Watercress can be a unique and flavorful addition to pesto, offering a peppery twist to the traditional recipe.

  25. Popular in Asian Cuisine: In Asian culinary traditions, watercress is often used in hot pot dishes and stir-fries.

  26. Versatile Garnish: Beyond culinary uses, watercress is a versatile garnish, enhancing the visual appeal of dishes.

  27. Aids in Digestion: The high fiber content of watercress promotes healthy digestion and may help prevent constipation.

  28. Traditional Easter Food: In some cultures, watercress is a symbolic part of Easter meals, representing renewal and spring.

  29. Laxative Properties: Watercress has mild laxative properties, which can contribute to digestive regularity.

  30. Habitat Indicator: The presence of watercress in freshwater environments can indicate good water quality, as it is sensitive to pollution.


Watercress filmed in Borwick, Lancashire on the 2nd June 2023.


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