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Watercress for Health

October 22, 2016, 4:16 PM HST
* Updated November 15, 3:08 PM
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Watercress. Big Island Now stock photo.

Watercress sprouts make a great addition to any sandwich or salad. Big Island Now stock photo.

Watercress, or “leko,” as it’s called in Hawaiian, is one of the oldest green, leafy vegetables in the world and is one of the most widely used fresh vegetables in the world and throughout the state.

It has a very distinguishable peppery flavor and crisp texture.

It is not known exactly when or how it made its way to the Hawaiian Islands.

The strain of watercress grown in Hawaii is known as the Sylvasprings or English.. It has longer stems and fewer leaves than the mainland variety that tends to grow in shorter bunches.

While there are slight differences in the appearance of both strains, one thing remains the same—it’s peppery flavor.

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Usually found used in a soup with pork, watercress is also great eaten raw in salads with other greens or by itself.

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It also makes an amazing pesto that can be used on almost anything—from pasta to bread or even fish and chicken.

Watercress sprouts make a great addition to any sandwich or salad.

While most of the watercress consumed in the continental United States is grown in Florida, due to its

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short shelf life of only one to two days after harvest, all of the watercress grown in Hawai‘i stays in the islands.

Seventy-five percent of the watercress grown in the state comes from a farm on O‘ahu, with the remaining amount coming from smaller farms on the outer islands.

Hawai‘i’s ideal location helps watercress to be continuously cultivated year-round. The best growth period for watercress is during the cool, wet months from October to April.

While it can be grown on dry land, it is usually cultivated either hydroponically or in patches of water and mud, similar to how kalo (taro) is grown.

Watercress is harvested by hand when the plant has grown between 12 and 15 inches above the surface of the water.

Most potency and nutritional value in watercress comes when it is consumed fresh and raw.

It has amazing cancer-fighting properties and is used to treat scurvy.

Various studies have shown that per serving it provides more iron than spinach, more calcium than whole milk and more vitamin C than oranges.

This small, humble leafy green has amazing health benefits. It is high in calcium, carotenes, folic acid, zinc, iron and vitamins A, B, C and E.

It helps in reducing eczema and wrinkles, maintaining strong bones and protecting against stroke, heart disease and cataracts.

In addition, it works as a diuretic, expectorant and blood purifier.

Watercress is more than just your average leafy green. If you haven’t done so yet, add it to your diet.

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