The Watercress website has a good range of facts, history and recipes, including this gem: 'The ancient Greeks called watercress kardamon; they believed it could brighten their intellect, hence their proverb “Eat watercress and get wit.” ' Yep, no-one tells them like the ancient Greeks. And Roman emperors ate watercress to help them make bold decisions. I take it that there's not much green stuff at 10 Downing Street these days.
Watercress went mass market with the arrival of the railways: the watercress line, running from Alresford to London ensured that the watercress arrived fresh and perky at Covent Garden.
Watercress sellers sold on the streets, making watercress a very early fast food.
I've eaten watercress for as long as I can remember, but I think the most my mother did with it was put it in sandwiches and salads. Those were pre-pesto days. My bag comes with three recipes: soup, yes, the inevitable pesto, and a salad of watercress, chicory, roquefort and bacon. I'll rummage in the fridge when I get home for a suitably celebratory dish.