We all know that leafy greens are among the best foods we can be eating. But when it comes to this category, watercress is often overlooked, and that’s a pity, because it’s among the most potent of leafy greens. The easiest (and tastiest) way to use this delicate green uncooked. This simple watercress salad, embellished with oranges, cucumber, and sprouts is a lovely way to highlight this delectable leafy green.
We should all be eating more watercress; markets should be making it more available. Though it can be enjoyed any time of year, this salad is at its most optimal when spring’s early greens intersect with the last of the cold season’s citrus in this easy and delectable salad.
The flavor of watercress is often described as peppery, and though that’s already a bit of a culinary cliché, but there’s really no other word for it. A member of the mustard family, the peppery heat of this tiny green comes from the mustard oils that are released when chewing the leaves. It’s a mild and pleasant bite, and this tender, vitamin-C rich green is easy to love.
It used to be that like asparagus, seeing watercress at the market was a sign of spring, but now, it’s available most of the year around. Watercress is believed to have healing and tonic properties above and beyond its splendid concentration of vitamins and minerals.
Watercress is usually sold in small bouquet-like bundles. The diminutive roundish leaves top long, slender stems. The stems are edible and you can use as much or as little of them as you choose; it’s a purely aesthetic decision. In addition to enjoying it in salads, watercress is also good in sandwiches in place of lettuce. Once the leaves look like they need to be used up, watercress is good as a last-minute addition to soups and briefly wilted in stir-fries.
- 1/2 English (hothouse) or other crisp cucumber cucumber, thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 small oranges (such as clementines), peeled and sectioned
- 2 big handfuls young spinach or arugula leaves
- 1/2 bunch watercress leaves
- 1 cup green sprouts (such as pea shoots)
- Juice of 1/2 orange
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon each lemon and orange zest, or more to taste,
- optional (but highly recommended
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds for topping, optional
- Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl except the optional seeds.
- Toss together and serve, passing around the optional seeds for topping individual servings.