Watercress is part of the mustard family and is one of the most ancient green vegetables known to man. Its use can be traced back to the Persians, Greeks and Romans.
The first known commercial cultivation attempt was made by Nicholas Meissner in the 16th century in Erfurt, Germany. It was seen there by an officer of Napoleon’s army and introduced by that officer into France, where it was eaten at almost every meal. Napoleon himself was a huge enthusiast.
The first British watercress farm was opened in 1808 in Kent. One famous British watercress seller was Eliza James, who as a child of five sold bunches of watercress around factories in Birmingham, and later earned the nickname of "The Watercress Queen" because of her near monopoly on the London watercress restaurant and hotel trade. She was reputed to be the biggest owner of watercress farms anywhere in the world.
Watercress has a light peppery, slightly bitter taste and is available year round.