Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs
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Herb of the Month
Over the next year, the herb of the month feature will focus on those unusual herbs that a professional grower may occasionally be asked to supply. These profiles are supplied by Herbalpedia
officinale (Nasturtium aquaticum,
Cultivation: Commercially grown watercress is grown in prepared beds fed by clean, running water. The wild plant, however, may grow in still water of questionable quality and carry deadly parasites such as liver-fluke, which is spread from cattle and sheep, so avoid harvesting from streams that are near these animals and thoroughly wash before eating raw.. It was once a common source of typhoid infection. Sow in a moist, shady border in spring; divide plants, or root pieces of stem in pans immersed in water in spring. Plant in beds irrigated with flowing water, in tubs of soil and water, or in trenches of fertile moist soil. Water frequently. When collecting, pick the more mature shoots before they flower. On some plants the leaves have a bronze tint, on others they are dark green. Do not pull the plant up by the roots but cut the tops off the shoots. Wash the cress thoroughly and use it promptly. Do not refrigerate it as this destroys the texture. If you want to keep it, it stays freshest more or less submerged in water. For medicinal uses, the herbage is collected without its flowers at flowering time. The older leaves are discarded as they become discolored when dried. The fresh drug has a sharp spicy smell and a sharp spicy radish-like taste. It loses both taste and smell when dried.
Culinary Uses: Watercress is a valuable winter salad vegetable but large doses are purgative. The leaves, rich in minerals and vitamins C and A, prized since Roman times for biting, rich flavor, raw or cooked as a vegetable and in soup. Cress adds a peppery flavor to everything. Traditionally it was used to garnish parsnips or, in Ireland, boiled with bacon. Now it is used in soups, salads, sandwiches or stir-fries. Toss with sliced mushrooms in sesame oil over a high flame, enough to wilt slightly. It can be served with grilled meats or braised chicken breast. Add finely minced cress leaves to crepe batter, compound butters, and crème fraiche for topping grilled fish or chicken. Include some minced cress in soufflés or mish mousse. Chinese cooks use watercress for its pungent flavor in broth soups at the end of a rich meal and in stir-fry recipes with meat or chicken. Cress is the traditional English sandwich stuffer or topping on finger sandwiches. Mix fresh cress with radish, alfalfa, and bean sprouts for a crunchy filling for sandwiches. Throw some watercress in a blender with cold tomato juice, some fresh basil leaves and a dash of Tabasco for a refreshing and healthy drink. The leaf stalks are trimmed from the main stems, rinsed and patted dry. It will not dry or freeze. To keep fresh once picked store in the refrigerator with the stems in water and the leaves covered by a plastic bag.
The comprehensive revised edition of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs is available from author, most internet booksellers, bookstores, and in libraries. It can be ordered from the distributor, Independent Publishers Group.
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