Champion of Veggies: The World’s Healthiest Vegetable
A group of experts in agriculture and nutrition have recently identified the healthiest vegetable in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use nutrition density scores to measure the levels of essential vitamins and minerals in various vegetables. While vegetables like spinach, chard, and beet greens usually score around 80, one stands out with a perfect score of 100: watercress.
Watercress is a leafy green that grows in freshwater environments like streams and ponds. It’s closely related to cabbage, kale, radishes, and mustard. Its scientific name, Nasturtium officinale, translates curiously to “nose twister.”
The world’s healthiest vegetable goes way back
The vegetable has a distinct peppery taste, similar to a combination of arugula and horseradish. B&W Quality Growers reports that watercress has been part of human diets for over three thousand years. It played a significant role in the cuisines of ancient Greek, Persian, and Roman civilizations, and there’s even speculation that it might have been included in the menu of the first Thanksgiving meal.
During the Victorian era in London, street vendors sold watercress as an affordable snack, often calling it the “poor man’s bread,” reported by the BBC. Across Europe and Asia, the vegetable has been consumed for its potential medicinal properties for many centuries.
Benefits of the healthiest vegetable
The health benefits of watercress are substantial. It contains higher amounts of vitamin A and potassium compared to regular lettuce. Interestingly, it even has more vitamin C than oranges. An observation that led Captain James Cook to consider it a remedy for scurvy during his global voyage.
There are various ways to use it in cooking. Younger sprouts have a milder taste and tender stems, making them suitable for raw dishes like salads and garnishes, much like parsley and cilantro. As watercress matures, its flavor becomes stronger with a bold peppery profile. The stems become tougher and fibrous, requiring cooking to make them more enjoyable. Stir-frying or adding to broths are options for including mature watercress in your meals.