May’s Salad: Watercress and Walnuts with a Citrus Vinaigrette

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When I was a kid, watercress was a garnish. It came on the side of plates of food at local restaurants, and sometimes I would eat it just to taste its tangy dark greenness.

My mother was obsessed with garnishes. She had a hard time eating anything that wasn’t “garnished.” But she didn’t use watercress. I, personally, am fairly anti-garnish in general. I think food should look good just by itself, and doesn’t need decoration. But I digress…

Somewhere along the way I developed a taste for watercress. And come spring, there is no better way to get it than in a salad. But first, here’s what you need to know about our friend watercress:

WATERCRESS

NUTRITION: Watercress gives you a nice dose of vitamins A, C and K, and contains the mineral calcium. And it contains some phytochemcials that are good for eye health, plus a particularly potent cancer-fighting antioxidant known as PEITC.

HEALING PROPERTIES: Good for cleansing kidneys and livers—even for dissolving kidney stones.

STORIES AND SPIRIT:  According to Alma Hutchens, in her book A Handbook of Native American Herbs, the Romans thought watercress was good for people with deranged minds.

FORAGING AND FINDING: You have to be careful with wild watercress. Since it grows at the edges of streams, if the stream is polluted, so is your watercress. So either grow your own near a water source you trust, or buy it at your local farmer’s market and hope they grew it cleanly.

Watercress and Walnuts with a Citrus Vinaigrette

Ingredients

For the salad:

Watercress (you can also add other lettuces if you want to dilute the taste of the watercress)

Toasted walnuts

For the dressing:

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

Fresh squeezed juice from ½ orange, blood orange, or tangerine

3 Tbs. 0live oil

Salt to taste

Directions:

1: Clean the watercress well and chop into edible bits.

2: Toast the walnuts and put them in with the salad.

3: Make the dressing by adding all the ingredients into a bowl and whisking with a fork to emulsify.

4: Toss!

Hey, you can even garnish this with an extra citrus slice.

Variations to this salad are endless, but some breaded and toasted goat cheese would also be very nice to make this a whole meal (provided you are not a vegan). You can also mix in other lettuces with the watercress if the taste is too strong for you.

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4 Responses to May’s Salad: Watercress and Walnuts with a Citrus Vinaigrette

  1. Margie May 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Great for salads. I have being eating watercress all these days. I mixed w/other organic green and veggies: lettuce, celery leaf, cilantrillo, then scratched carrots, scratched coconut, and for dressing: garlic and scallions, flax seed oil, lemon, a bit of scratch sesame (the one for juice) and a bit of herbamare salt. Tossed all together and believe me, you are never going to forget it. Bon Appetit!

  2. Kim Burdick, Stanton, DE June 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Please, can someone recommend a place in the northern New Castle County/southern Chester County area where I can buy watercress plants? I am looking for some to plant along the rapidly eroding banks of the White Clay Creek behind our house.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Kim Burdick
    Stanton, Delaware

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