Jan 30, 2012

Watercress in Hawaii

Hawaiian watercress from Sumida Watercress Farm
From New York to Paris, China to Germany, watercress is one of the most widely used and recognized fresh vegetables in the world, and Hawaii is no exception. Watercress is readily available in Hawaii and is an economically important vegetable crop here. Hawaii grows the 'Sylvasprings' or 'English' strain of watercress. It has long stems with fewer leaves, while the mainland variety tends to come in short bunches, however both varieties have that distinctive 'peppery' flavor. In Hawaii, watercress is continuously cultivated year-round with an average of 6-8 crop cycles per year. Yield of watercress varies seasonally with the best growth occurring during the cool, wet season from October to April. Watercress is harvested by hand using a hand sickle when the plant has grown 12 to 15 inches above the water surface. 75% of Hawaii's watercress is grown on the Sumida Watercress Farm, an 11 acre, spring fed farm across from Pearlridge Center on Oahu. The watercress is harvested every 8 weeks, producing 300 tons a year which goes to local markets, hotels, and restaurants, and none of their watercress is exported. There are approximately 12 growers on Oahu, 2 on Maui, and 1 on the Big Island. Most of the watercress consumed in the continental United States is produced in Florida by B&W Quality Growers. It is the world's largest watercress grower, a family-owned and operated farm, growing watercress since 1870.

Watercress has amazing health benefits. It has cancer fighting properties and was long used to treat scurvy. Watercress provides more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin B than black currants, and more iron than spinach.

Recipes:
Watercress Soup with Pork Wontons
Ingredients:
1 large bunch watercress, stems removed
8 ounces minced pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese wine or dry sherry
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pints chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces ready-made wonton skins

Procedure:
Divide the watercress into two bunches. Chop one bunch finely and cut the other in 1 inch pieces. In a bowl, mix together the minced pork, finely chopped watercress, soy sauce. 1 teaspoon sesame oil, sugar, cooking wine, pepper and ginger. Beat well to combine throughly. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the middle of a ready-made wonton skin, gather up the corners to completely enclose the meat, then twist the top to close tightly. Continue until all the meat mixture is used up. In a deep saucepan, heat the chicken stock with the salt. In a separate pan, bring about 2 1/2 pints of water to a boil. When boiling, drop in the wontons. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain the wontons and place in a deep bowl. Line soup bowls with the remaining watercress. Put in the wontons. Pour on the chicken stock, sprinkle with the remaining sesame oil and serve hot. Makes 2 servings.

Watercress Pesto
Ingredients:
1/2 clove garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
3 ounces watercress, rinsed and dried
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste depending on what you are serving it on.

Procedure:
Place ingredients into a food processor or blender, Pulse until a finely chopped paste has formed. Serve over pasta or chicken, shrimp or fish or over tomatoes in a salad. Makes about 1 cup.

Baked Salmon with Watercress
Ingredients:
2 pounds of salmon fillets cut into four, 4 ounce portions
3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup of button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of watercress, coarsely chopped
2 lemons, juice only
1/4 cup of dry white wine
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and black pepper, to taste

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Scatter onions, mushrooms and watercress on the bottom of a heavy, non-reactive baking dish. Place fish on top and add lemon juice and wine. Sprinkle with herbs and arrange tomatoes around perimeter of dish. Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes depending upon the thickness of the salmon fillets. Serve with white rice or boiled potatoes with fresh parsley and melted butter. Makes 4 servings.

Cranberry, Watercress Salad with Toasted Almonds and Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ingredients for salad:
2 large bunches watercress, hand-torn, remove stems
1 cup almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice

Ingredients for honey balsamic vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:
Soften cranberries by adding orange juice, then microwave for 1 minute, let cool.

Make a quick vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, honey, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper (or throw the ingredients into a small jar with a lid, cover, and shake). Pour the vinaigrette over the watercress and toss to coat. Garnish with the toasted slivered almonds and cranberries. Makes 4 servings.

Watercress Salad with Roasted Beets
Ingredients for the salad:
1 large bunch watercress, stems removed
2 medium sized beets (about 1 pound)
2 small sticks of celery
1 Granny Smith or Pippin apple
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of mild curry paste
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
salt and pepper

Procedure:
To roast the beets, heat oven to 375˚F and arrange a rack in the middle. Rinse the beets and trim off any leafy tops. Place beets on a pie plate and cover with foil and place in oven. Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel using a paring knife or by pushing the skin with your fingers (wear rubber gloves so as not to stain your hands if you wish). Wash, drain and dry the watercress, removing the stems. Arrange on serving plates. Cut the beets and celery into thin slices. Wash, halve, core and slice the apple. Arrange the beets, celery and apple on top of the watercress leaves. Sprinkle the spring onions and walnuts over the top. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve. Makes 2 servings.
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