Alresford and watercress go way back. Watercress growing in the pure spring water has been picked and eaten locally for centuries, yet it wasn't until the introduction of the railway in 1865 and commercial production that it reached a far wider population. Today the mineral-rich spring waters that ultimately feed the River Arle still offer perfect growing conditions and the watercress beds around Alresford are the country's main area of production.
Watercress is brimming with 15 essential vitamins and minerals and has enjoyed superfood status for centuries. It is believed to have originated in ancient Greece when Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used it to help treat his patients and the Greek general Xenophon made his soldiers eat it to increase their vigour before going in to battle.
In Britain, watercress came in to fashion in the Victorian era when it was thought it could cleanse the blood. It became a staple diet of the working classes, most often eaten in sandwiches for breakfast.
Gram for gram, watercress contains as much vitamin C as oranges, more calcium than whole milk and more iron than spinach. It's packed with beta-carotene and Vitamin A equivalents, which are great for healthy skin and eyes. Nowadays research suggests that it could play an important role in the field of cancer prevention.
Today all good chefs include watercress on their menus, while health professionals rave about its amazing nutritional properties and every detox diet includes it!