How to choose: Peppery, water-grown “cress” arrived in America via European immigrants in the 1800s. Look for rounded, dark green leaves. Remove yellowed or wilted bits. It’s highly perishable, so set root ends in water, cover leaves with plastic, and refrigerate. Swish in cold water to clean.

Preparation tips: Both the mustardy leaves and cool stems are deliciously edible. Aside from gracing tea sandwiches, watercress adds snap to egg-drop soup, mashed potatoes, and pesto. Toss in salads with avocado, pear, and gorgonzola. Blend into butter with marjoram and garlic and spread on hot French bread.

Health benefits: A favorite in detox and anticancer diets, watercress contains significant folic acid, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

—Elisa Bosley

Goat Cheese–Watercress Sandwiches

(Serves 4)

4 ounces goat cheese
1 cup sliced roasted red peppers
8 small, thin slices pumpernickel bread
16 watercress sprigs (about 1/4 ounce total)
4 teaspoons butter
Cooking spray

1. Divide cheese and red peppers equally among 4 bread slices. Top with watercress and cover with remaining bread slices. Spread outside of each bread slice lightly with butter.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sandwiches to skillet. Grill each side for about 3 minutes, or until toasted. Serve warm.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 307 calories
% fat calories: 42
Fat: 15g
Saturated Fat: 9g
Cholesterol: 32mg
Protein: 12g
Carbohydrate: 34g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 663mg

Recipe provided by James Rouse, ND, creator of Optimum Wellness and The Fit Kitchen, seen weekly on NBC’s KUSA television news.