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Nasturtium officinale

Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand


Watercress is a semi-aquatic plant that’s often found growing wild in streams and ditches, though it is commercially cultivated.

It has small, dark green leaves on long stalks, and a peppery taste. In New Zealand, it’s often confused with puha. Though puha is often known as Maori watercress, they’re members of two different families.

Watercress contains good amounts of iron, calcium, and folate, as well as vitamins A and C.

Choose fresh-looking watercress that’s not wilted or yellowing. While it’s best used on the day of purchase, if you do have to store it, do so in the fridge in a plastic bag – but use it as soon as you possibly can.



One of the oldest known vegetables, the history of watercress can be traced back more than 3000 years. It was said to have been eaten by the Greek god Zeus for strength, and it was used by both the Persians and the Greeks as a medicinal food.

It’s been especially prized throughout British history, with the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and Irish monks all being said to have used it for its health benefits.


Watercress is mainly a salad green, and that’s where it’s best used. Its peppery flavour makes it a great companion to fruit in salads – it’s particularly good tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, sliced pear, and walnuts.

Watercress (or puha) is also an essential ingredient in the classic Maori boil-up. Bones, usually pork, are boiled with potatoes, kumara and watercress and served with Maori bread.


In India, they use a type of watercress in Ayurvedic medicine to help treat postnatal depression.

Watercress is related to the mustard plant – that’s where that peppery flavour comes from.

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