Weird, wet spring weather creates perfect conditions for wild watercress | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Weird, wet spring weather creates perfect conditions for wild watercress

Watercress is gaining popularity in North America after being a well-known food in the United Kingdom and in Asia for years. Watercress can be found in the wild in the Thompson and Okanagan valleys.
Image Credit: Wikimedia commons
June 15, 2020 - 6:00 AM

It’s being touted as one of the new superfoods, and wild supplies are available — if you know where to look.

Watercress is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. The water-based plant contains Vitamins K, C, A, E, B-6, as well as manganese, calcium, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium and phosphorus.

Okanagan forager Scott Moran says he’s having a hard time keeping up with demand for watercress as restaurants return to business following the COVID-19 shutdowns.

“It's got a spicy flavour, like arugula. It’s a classic in Britain, where it’s been popular for years. They grow it in watercress beds, where it’s farmed in water in concrete pools,” Moran says.

Watercress is generally found in slow moving, shallow waters, and along the edges of rivers, lakes and streams in B.C. A relative of garden cress, mustard, radish and wasabi, the leaf is used in salads but can also be incorporated into pasta dishes, casseroles and sauces.

Locally, Moran says he sources his wild watercress from small Okanagan streams and creeks, but won’t say specifically where he finds it.

“I get mine in the suburbs of Kelowna and West Kelowna. I find it in nice, clean water that hasn’t passed through an orchard,” he says.

Moran says watercress seems to like rocky stream beds, where it grows on the water from May to September.

“The stuff out now will go to seed, but other spots will come out later. If you find a good spot and keep picking, you might be able to prevent it from going to seed,” he says.

Moran says he has seen people of Asian descent sourcing watercress from ditches in West Kelowna.

“Many Asians are also aware of the value of the plant,” he says.

Moran says the leaf is seldom available at grocery stores, and commercially sourced watercress doesn’t have the same ‘vibrancy’ of the wild plant.

“Some operations on the coast are growing it in soil. It’s a very new crop, and in high demand by restaurants,” he says.

Moran says the leafy vegetable is popular in a gorgonzola and poached pear sandwich, or in a soup. It can even be used as a pizza topping.

This year’s slow start to summer has made for ideal conditions to harvest the plant. Moran says the cooler days helps keep watercress stay crisp and fresh after it has been picked.

Watercress can be found in slow moving Thompson and Okanagan streams from May to September.
Watercress can be found in slow moving Thompson and Okanagan streams from May to September.
Image Credit: Wikimedia commons

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