No, it's not just a topping for crustless toast, served at highbrow teas. Watercress is a fresh, wild vegetable that makes a hearty addition to a foraged spring meal.
|Swamps = Fountains of Life|
When I was a little girl, my father used to come to the stream opposite this little swamp to catch minnows. I remember how he'd set up his big kick net, then send me upstream to chase them down to him. I've been visiting this spring-fed swamp for almost 50 years.
At one point, in my early childhood, someone kept a fenced area on the hill above it, where they held some white deer. Those deer are long gone, but the spring remains.
In the green run-off, the watercress faithfully grows wild every spring. Someone kindly brings palettes for the pickers, and lays them out strategically.
I gather a few bags each time I visit. It rapidly replenishes itself if you just twist off the top few inches.
|Rinsing the cress|
My friend David tells the story of enjoying his first watercress salad of the season, only to find a snail attached, so I make sure to give the watercress a good rinse before storing. Those of us who forage our wild foods know that we share them with all sorts of living creatures. I try not to eat those critters in the process.
My first watercress meal of the season will be a potato, ramp and watercress soup, made with organic chicken broth and raw milk, and garnished with local bacon. I'd call that a hearty spring meal!
Cream of Potato, Ramp and Watercress Soup.
4 cups of chopped ramps
4 cups of cubed red potatoes
4 slices of bacon
4 cups of chopped watercress
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup of heavy cream
In a Dutch Oven, cook the bacon intil crisp. Remove it and hold until later. Add potatoes, ramps and cress to the pot, then saute until the greens are cooked. Add the chicken broth, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. (I used a stick blender at this point to make the pieces smaller). Reduce temperature and add cream, them heat through. Season with salt, as needed. Pour into bowls, and garnish with bacon and yogurt. Yummmmmmmmmm. Welcome spring.