Broccoli shortage? fear not, UK Watercress is thriving in the hot weather....
As the nation’s children have just broken up for summer, the sun continues to shine and now there’s a reported shortage of broccoli they must be feeling like all their Christmases have come at once! Well sorry to put a dampener on it but there’s no reason to go without your five a day as supplies of watercress remain high and The Watercress Company can prove that kids do enjoy eating it!
The current heatwave may be causing havoc among UK salad and vegetable growers struggling to keep up with high demand for their crops, forcing warnings of imminent shortages, but watercress production and sales are soaring by up to 30%. More and more people are trying the peppery leaf with its cancer preventing properties and high levels of natural nitrates proven to reduce blood pressure, a condition exacerbated by hot days like these.
How can the fortunes of watercress be so different to that of other crops? Watercress uniquely grows in flowing spring water bubbling up from ancient aquifers whose supply is constant and secure on the farms. At around 10'C, the water is cool having been underground, protecting the watercress from the excessive heat the UK is currently experiencing. The crop is also very efficient with its water usage, consuming only a small amount as the plant takes what water is needed direct from the roots sitting in the water. The leaves over the water help to prevent evaporation during the crops’ production, thus limiting water wastage.
Watercress with its peppery taste might not be the first thing that parents would reach for to ensure their children get their five a day but The Watercress Company, the UK’s largest producer of watercress, has been working with youngsters from the Prince of Wales School in Dorchester to show just how easy it is to include watercress in their diets and in a way that they enjoy – a delicious watercress smoothie.
Fascinated by the brilliant green drink on offer made with blended watercress, spinach, mango, pineapple and water, children from Year 2-4 volunteered to be guinea pigs and give the watercress smoothie a go. It was a hit.....
and parents couldn’t be giving their children anything healthier. Watercress has been revered as a plant with mystical health properties since ancient times and in modern times scientific research has shown the myths and legends have a firm basis in fact. We now know that watercress contains over 50 vital vitamins and minerals and gram for gram contains more calcium than milk, more folate than bananas, more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin E than broccoli and more glucosinolates than broccoli too. Perhaps more exciting is the extensive research in the last decade that has demonstrated the cancer inhibiting properties of watercress.
Further research into the specific health benefits of watercress are underway and will be revealed later this year, however, being a member of the cruciferous family, any research revolving around broccoli, kale, spinach or cabbage is generally relevant to watercress too, making it a super healthy alternative when supplies of other greens are low.
Tom Amery, MD of The Watercress Company says: “I appreciate this is a difficult time for UK fresh produce growers and empathise – we are suffering too with our baby salad leaf, spinach and lettuce crops. However, we really feel it as an opportunity for consumers to try watercress instead. Watercress not only packs a powerful health punch, it tastes delicious with its unique peppery flavour adding to other salad ingredients and as our young volunteers have shown – it’s great in a smoothie giving a super boost at the start of the day. There’s no better time to try introducing watercress to the family diet than now.”
For more information on the health benefits of watercress and recipe ideas (including the smoothie recipe) to help increase the watercress in your diet, visit www.watercress.co.uk.