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How to Store Watercress

How to Store Watercress - MeanyGoat

How to Store Watercress at Home

Learn how to store watercress correctly so that you can keep it fresh as long as possible and avoid it turning into a pile of green slime overnight! Watercress is an expensive but highly tasty and nutritious addition to any salad or garnish. However, watercress is 93% water and so it spoils very quickly and needs treating rather differently from your other salads. Learn how to keep watercress fresh so that you can avoid any waste!

Watercress Facts and Nutrition:

Watercress is a semi aquatic plant that grows naturally in running water at the edges of streams and rivers. The scientific name is Nasturtium officinale which means it is related to mustard, cress and radish….and this gives us some clues as to why it is so tasty! Watercress is just jam packed with nutrients particularly Vitamins A and C as well as iron, calcium, iodine and folic acid. Basically it is just really good for you and acts a s a powerful stimulant to the digestive system, is a mild diuretic and is thought to have cancer suppressing properties.

Watercress was first commercially cultivated in 1808 in the UK by William Bradbery along the river Ebbsfleet in Kent. It rapidly became very popular and production quickly spread to other countries so that by the 1940’s Huntsville Alabama was regarded by many as the Watercress Capital of the World!

Traditionally watercress is sold as bunches of the freshly cut stems…usually tied together with string or an elastic band (These are good to keep for re-use!!). More recently supermarkets have started selling watercress in plumped up plastic bags in order to protect the delicate leaves from being crushed.

Being such a useful and nutritious plant it is important to learn how to store watercress at home.

How to Store Watercress for as Long as Possible:

Fresh watercress soon wilts if it is left out of water for any length of time. Equally, damp watercress can turn into a nasty slimy mess overnight if you try to store it like other salads…so what is the trick?


How to store watercress - remove the bad leaves

How to Store Watercress – The first stage is always to remove any yellow, slimy or damaged leaves!

The first thing to do with watercress when you get it home is to untie the bunch or take it out of the bag and pick it over to remove any yellow, wilted or crushed leaves. Anything that looks even vaguely slimy needs to be picked off immediately otherwise it will spread rapidly. Do not wash the leaves or let them get wet! The natural instinct when dealing with any kind of salad is always to wash the leaves. However, with watercress this is a disaster unless you are going to eat the whole bunch immediately. If you want to keep cut watercress fresh for as long as possible then keep the leaves dry!

Method 1 – Store in a Plastic Box:

How to Store Waterress - box method

How to Store Watercress – Method 1 Store in a Plastic Box….it is important to only store dry healthy leaves like this.

After picking over the leaves gently dab them dry with a clean cloth and put them in a plastic storage container, close the lid and and put the box in the salad compartment of the fridge. It is important to NOT ADD ANY WATER to the box! Like this the watercress leaves should keep fresh for two or three days. Each time you use some just check that the remaining leaves are ok and remove any that have gone yellow.

Method 2 – Store in a Jug of Water & Cover with a Plastic Bag:

How to store watercress - bowl of waterHow to store watercress - plastic bag method
How to store watercress – Use a Jug of Water.…only put a couple on inches of water in the bottom so that the stems and not the leaves are submerged.How to Store Watercress – Cover the jug with a plastic bag to create a humid but not wet environment to ensure maximum storage time.

Since watercress grows in water it lasts well if the bunch is stored in a jug of water and covered with a plastic bag. With this method it is important to keep the leaves dry…do not mist them….and change the water in the jug every day. If possible store the covered jug in a cool but light place. Like this the watercress should stay fresh and last longer than if stored in the fridge….typically 3 or 4 days.

Checklist for How to Store Watercress:

  • Deal with the watercress as soon as you get it home…any delay will reduce the time it stays fresh
  • Remove all yellow leaves and slimy bits
  • Keep the leaves dry….only wash them immediately before use
  • Short term storage in a plastic box in the salad drawer of the refrigerator works well
  • For maximum storage put the cress stems in a jug of water and cover with a plastic bag

Can I Grow Watercress?

How to store watercress - look for roots

Look for these tiny roots growing out from the node where a leaf joins the stem.

If you look at the watercress stems carefully you will sometimes see tiny roots growing out from the node between the stem and a leaf. Both commercially and in the wild watercress needs flowing water to flourish. However, you can keep some of these stems with roots and put 4 or 5 into a six inch pot standing in a saucer of water. Every few days completely replace the water. Pinch the tops out of the cress and eat them….then after a few days you should start noticing that side-shoots appear. Eventually the leaves will get big enough to eat and will give you enough for a garnish!

Take a Frugal Tip from the MeanyGoat and learn how to store watercress so that you get the maximum use out of this nutritious but relatively expensive salad crop!

Click this link to discover some really imaginative Watercress Recipes: Watercress Recipes

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