In the world of superfoods, kale may have to relinquish its crown as a new contender steps into the spotlight. Agricultural and nutritional experts have recently unveiled their findings, singling out a vegetable with unparalleled health benefits.

To ascertain the nutritional density of various produce items, the CDC employs a scoring system based on the concentration of essential vitamins and minerals. Familiar contenders like spinach, chard, and beet greens earn respectable scores in the 80s range. However, the vegetable that claims a perfect score of 100 is none other than watercress.

Unfamiliar with watercress? This leafy green belongs to the Brassicaceae family and thrives in freshwater bodies such as streams and ponds. It shares close botanical ties with cabbage, kale, radishes, and mustard. Its scientific name, Nasturtium officinale, derives from Latin, translating to “nose twister” – a fitting description for those who’ve experienced its mature leaves’ zesty bite.

Watercress boasts a distinct peppery taste, reminiscent of a fusion between arugula and horseradish. Historical records from B&W Quality Growers indicate that watercress has graced plates for over three millennia, holding a staple status in ancient Greek, Persian, and Roman civilizations. It even found its way onto the inaugural Thanksgiving menu.

While some regions classify watercress as a weed due to its abundant growth in damp, temperate settings, its consistent availability underscores its role as a dependable, nutrient-rich food source. Historical accounts revealed that Victorian-era street vendors in London peddled it as a snack, dubbing it the “poor man’s bread.” Across Europe and Asia, watercress has served medicinal purposes for countless generations.

And the health benefits are not to be underestimated. Dr. Amy Lee, Nucific’s Head of Nutrition, attests, “Watercress boasts a myriad of health advantages. It’s rich in vitamin A and potassium, surpassing the levels found in typical lettuce.” Adding to its allure, watercress outpaces oranges in vitamin C content – an attribute noted by Captain James Cook, who deemed it a scurvy remedy during his global expedition.

The only drawback? Sourcing watercress can pose a challenge. “It’s not widely available,” Dr. Lee remarks. “You’ll find it mainly in specialty markets and establishments like Whole Foods, rather than your average grocery store.” Yet, for those fortunate enough to acquire this gem, numerous culinary avenues await.

Tender young watercress sprouts offer a milder flavor and delicate, hollow stems, ideal for uncooked applications like salads and garnishes akin to parsley and cilantro. Fully developed watercress imparts a heightened, peppery essence. Its stems, however, grow tougher and fibrous, necessitating cooking to enhance palatability.

Dr. Lee’s upbringing included watercress-infused stir-fries and savory broths, and she underscores the significance of not overcooking this vegetable. “Extended cooking leads to vitamin loss,” she cautions. “Nutrients seep into the cooking liquid, leaving you with vegetables and little else.”

Nevertheless, consuming watercress raw isn’t the sole approach. Cooking mature watercress, especially to break down fibrous stems, elevates nutrient absorption. Dr. Lee explains, “There’s a finite window for food breakdown and metabolism before it progresses through the digestive system. It’s a delicate equilibrium.”

In the ever-evolving landscape of superfoods, watercress has emerged as a formidable contender, beckoning health-conscious individuals to explore its unique culinary and nutritional merits.