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The Health Benefits of Watercress

Pure Food for Sages

Watercress is full of health benefits, including impressive cancer fighting properties

The Power of Watercress

Peppery and crisp, watercress has a distinguished flavor and hardy constitution. One of the oldest green leaf vegetables in the world, this plucky perennial has amazing cancer-fighting properties and was long used as an antiscorbutic to treat scurvy. Keep in mind that watercress is most potent when consumed fresh and raw. It has been said that watercress provides more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin B than blackcurrants, and more iron than spinach. In fact, Irish monks used to refer to the plant as "pure food for sages."

Small leaves - huge impact

Watercress may be a small, humble leaf, but its health benefits are amazing. This hardy perennial has amazing cancer fighting properties and was long used as an antiscorbutic to treat scurvy. Keep in mind that watercress is most potent when consumed fresh and raw. Check out these additional health benefits:

- very high in calcium, carotenes, folic acid, zinc, iron, and vitamins A, B, C and E
- antioxidant properties
- helps anemia
- helps reduce eczema and wrinkles
- helps maintain strong bones
- neutralizes free radicals
- can protect against spina bifida
- protects against stroke, heart disease, cataracts
- works as blood purifier, diuretic and expectorant

It has been said that watercress provides more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin B than blackcurrants, and more iron than spinach.

In fact, Irish monks used to refer to the plant as "pure food for sages."

On a trip to Hawaii, we visited Sumida Farm on Oahu, the largest watercress producer in the islands, to witness firsthand how this leafy green vegetable is produced. We were impressed by their persistence and fortitude. For years, developers have tried to chase the Sumida family away, but their strong belief in their product coupled with an ideal location have kept them where they are — and Hawaii is glad for it.

The farm, responsible for 70 percent of all the watercress produced in Hawaii, actually stalled a shopping center development and is nestled between two wings of it in the middle of the city. Their unparalleled site contains natural ground springs and allows them access to an abundance of cool, crystal-clear filtered water from the Pearl Harbor aquifer. Weekly production peaks at six tons over a total of ten acres. The 300 tons produced per year go to local markets, hotels, and restaurants, as none of the product is exported. Most of the watercress consumed in the continental United States is produced in Florida.

An entire patch is harvested by cutting the plant and leaving it to regenerate, while a special pressure chamber is used to quick-chill the product before distribution. David Sumida swears by the process: "It's amazing how it works, but it really preserves freshness in the vegetable. Not much has changed since 1928 when my grandparents started the farm. We have a few other things growing for personal consumption and a few fishes here and there. It is truly an ideal place with five million gallons pouring out every day."

We are impressed by these multi-generation artisans and their dedicated workers. The vegetable is outstanding, somewhat taller than what you might get on the mainland, but very intense, peppery and crisp — and full of health benefits. It is encouraging to know that a new generation of Sumidas is continuing this longstanding tradition of perfecting only one thing: truly good watercress.

Sumida Farm, Inc
98-160 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
Hawaii 96701
808-488-4517

Here is a site that will tell you all you might want to know about watercress, including its health benefits: www.watercress.com. B&W Quality Growers is the world's largest watercress grower. They are family-owned and operated and have been growing watercress since 1870.

Fennel and watercress salad

Related Content:
Top 10 Superfoods

More Health Features
Hawaii Travel Guide

Additional Resources:
www.watercress.com

 

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