Culpeper Cheese Co

I am sorry if you have ever tasted limp greens sold as watercress in most grocery stores. A farmer’s market where the watercress is packed in ice is much better.

But for the best watercress, you need to have no fear of deer, cows, horses, dogs, snakes, and barbed wire.  Sturdy clothing, which you don’t mind ruining, and knee-high waterproof boots are also advantageous.

That said, when you find watercress in the wild, it will usually be a coincidence. If, like me, you are a fool for the zippy almost horseradish-like taste of fresh watercress, it may not matter what you are dressed in.

I was a kid in Madison County when I first had watercress. The spicy sensation on my tongue was unique and made my nostrils flare!  I was hooked on the succulent, leafy green plants. Once I knew what to look for, I sought watercress. Until deer did the same, I was lucky to have a significant watercress patch on our property.

Spotting watercress this time of year is easy.  Look in the silted area of slow-moving fresh water.  The bright green leafy plants are most likely delectable watercress. If you are a first timer check the grocery store, or the Internet for proper identification. You want to know what you are taking home.

I remember once being on a prestigious horse farm in Kentucky when I spotted some fresh watercress in a stream just beyond a horse fence. I thought I would show my New York City co-workers what good eating was all about.

The slats of the fence were easily negotiated and the rocky edges of the stream kept me from getting wet. This was better than most of my ill-fated watercress harvesting adventures. With a fistful of watercress rinsed in the stream waters I headed back to celebrate my find with my co-workers.

It was then, half in the fence and half out, that I recall a large presence, heavy breath, and sudden sharp pain. The thoroughbred, for which the fence was for, bit my leather jacket pinching my arm with his teeth. He wanted my watercress. Falling through the fence onto the ground and pushing with my feet away from the fence, I was free of danger yet in pain.  The thoroughbred got my watercress.

Since then, I have learned to better prepare for watercress harvesting. Dressed in a suit, tie, and dress shoes, driving home from one recent Easter service I spotted watercress more than 15 feet down a craggy vine-covered embankment.

I stopped, surveyed the location, and assessed what could go amiss. Ultimately, I decided to return properly dressed for watercress harvesting.  The fresh crunch and spice of watercress are well worth the effort of returning.