By Heidi Lewis
“The doctor will see you now,” said the nurse pityingly.
“What seems to be the trouble?” the doc asked without looking up. When greeted with silence, she swiveled around. “Oh!” the doctor exclaimed with a mixture of scientific surprise and gory glee as she freewheeled her three-wheel stool over to the patient.
“Violinist?” she asked.
“Uh-uh,” mumbled the Patient.
“Hand model? Embroiderer? Diamond sorter?” the doctor shorthanded as a way of getting the most out of her seven-minutes-per-patient time allotment.
“No mum, it’s the tea time—and those blasted watercress sandwiches!” cried the patient in an English accent closer to the Beatles than the Bard.
“Well, Mr. Earl, you have an extreme case of hyperextension of the digitus minimus—your pinkie finger is stuck in the air. I recommend you lay off the sandwiches immediately and begin to enjoy your watercress in salads and soups. And put that finger in some iced tea.”
“Much obliged, mum,” said the relieved Mr. Earl.
Watercress should cause no duress, as it is a lively and versatile green—a peppery leaf, akin to arugula. Watercress is the oldest known vegetable to humans, as it is easily foraged from the water’s edge; although this watercress is cultivated and grown organically from pure and controlled water sources. Watercress lives the life semi-aquatic. Because of its hollow stems, it has a chance to float dreamily, waiting to be plucked. This water nymph is high in calcium, folic acid, antioxidants, iron, and iodine. As a member of the cabbage family, it contains sulfur, which aids the absorption of protein.
Watercress had its heyday in the Victorian era when trains from the country bearing baskets of fresh watercress to Covent Garden Market made it all the rage. Bunches of it were sold to be eaten out of hand like ice cream cones as some of the first healthy to-go food. In post–World War II England, watercress on bread became a staple of tea time and a national institution because it was healthy and homegrown. Enjoy your watercress! (Pinkie extension optional.)