For most of us, it’s the time of year for warming soups and large plates of comfort food to chase away the winter chills. But in northern France, watercress is having a moment, for it is here that vast quantities of the peppery salad reaches peak season in December/January. 

 The Île-de-France region is famous for its watercress, with Méréville, in the Essonne department, given the nickname ‘the capital of watercress’ – although the production process is so delicate the number of farms is quite low, and in 2022 they produced 4, 646 tonnes between them.  

Originally only found growing wild (it still does – watch out for it in shallow, fast-flowing streams) watercress – le cresson en français – has been farmed in France for three centuries. And if all this is making you feel rather chilly, there’s good news: it can be cooked as well as eaten raw, and makes an excellent soup.  

If you happen to be au marché in France, keep your eyes peeled for bunches of watercress with an intense colour, which is a guarantee of freshness. And be sure to eat it within 24 to 48 hours or it will wilt to a shadow of its former self (that said, if it’s not too past it, try adding it to scrambled eggs for a peppery breakfast treat). Oh, and a nifty way to wash all those entangled leaves is to soak them in water containing a few drops of white vinegar. 

Looking for dining inspo? Why not try these delicious twice-baked watercress soufflés

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