The Little Tujunga Creek** is festooned with watercress. The dogs and I made a loop through Middle Ranch, bearing left towards the road and followed the stream back down. There are bushels of the stuff. Part of the reason for walking every day is to calm my often overactive mind, but for years I've been looking at the watercress and rejecting its culinary worth due to the fact that the stream is well-trodden by horses. Today, as I was noodling, it struck me that all of my father's best cucumbers and tomatoes were grown out of soil chockablock-full of horse manure, so really, should we worry about it?* MFK Fisher, who grew up in California, was warned off it as a child for exactly these reasons. I bent down and tasted some of the peppery leaves this morning -- it is so abundant that you can choose only the youngest and sweetest shoots -- and it is quite delicious.
Here are a few lovely watercress recipes that I'll be trying this week:
Watercress & chickpea soup with rosewater and ras el hanout
Watercress salad with quail's egg, ricotta and seeds
Casserole roasted chicken with garlic, lemon & watercress salad
* This isn't particularly romantic, but if you are a forager, make sure you triple-wash watercress and other wild plants before using them as food. Obviously cooking the watercress is safer than eating it raw, if you are concerned about e. coli infection. I asked the Maharishi, he of superior intelligence, about this very thing and he suggested that my father's horse manure might have been pasteurized which is a dear and sweet idea, but can't possibly be true. We didn't even pasteurize our milk.
** If you are interested in my watercress source, shoot me an email at bramblejelly (at) gmail (dotcom) -- there is plenty for everyone