Watercress: The Perfect Food for Science in Spain’s Diet

by Ella

In the realm of culinary exploration, there exists a hidden treasure known as watercress, or “berro de agua” in Spanish. This wild plant, thriving in the serene streams, remains largely unknown to the majority of consumers in Spain. Its presence is so scarce that even among farmers, there’s uncertainty regarding its cultivation. Interestingly, many have unknowingly sampled watercress through pre-packaged salads, where its distinctive spicy flavor leaves a lasting impression. Despite this modest presence, watercress remains virtually nonexistent in the Spanish diet.

However, its absence becomes glaring when considering the findings of scientific research unveiling its remarkable health properties. A study, led by Dr. Jennifer Di Noia and supported by the Center for Disease Prevention (CDC), delved into the nutritional density of various foods. This endeavor aimed to identify the most nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, crucial for reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Remarkably, watercress emerged as the pinnacle of nutritional excellence, boasting a nutrient density percentage of 100%, surpassing all other contenders.


The study meticulously examined 47 foods, assessing their nutrient content per 100 grams without cooking. These foods, endorsed by esteemed institutions such as the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), encompassed a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, and berries. Watercress, belonging to the cruciferous family, claimed the top spot, epitomizing the epitome of nutritional density.


While science extols the virtues of watercress, its integration into the Spanish diet faces significant challenges. The climate and agricultural landscape pose obstacles to large-scale cultivation, limiting its availability in local markets. Farmers, cognizant of the environmental implications, express reservations about embracing watercress cultivation en masse. Despite its nutritional prowess, the feasibility of widespread adoption remains uncertain.


In a curious twist, the largest watercress producer in Europe, Royalcress, hails from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. Despite their capacity to cultivate top-quality watercress, the entirety of their production is exported to the United Kingdom, where watercress enjoys a resurgence in popularity. This irony underscores the paradox of Spain’s potential to produce nutrient-rich foods while failing to incorporate them into domestic consumption patterns.


Efforts to promote watercress within Spain are underway, albeit with mixed success. Royalcress endeavors to introduce watercress to local markets through tastings and culinary showcases. By showcasing watercress’s versatility in both raw and cooked forms, they aim to entice consumers and pave the way for its integration into Spanish cuisine.

In conclusion, watercress stands as a testament to the intersection of science, agriculture, and culinary culture. While its nutritional benefits are undeniable, its journey from scientific acclaim to widespread consumer adoption remains a nuanced endeavor requiring concerted efforts from all stakeholders. As Spain navigates the delicate balance between sustainability, dietary diversity, and consumer preferences, the fate of watercress serves as a compelling narrative in the evolving landscape of food production and consumption.



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