If you’re looking for a free, fun, family-friendly day out, The Alresford Watercress Festival ticks all the boxes and is fabulous for food too!
This annual event, on Sunday 21 May, is now in its 19th year and celebrates the start of the UK watercress season. It is held in the ‘capital of watercress’, the Hampshire market town of Alresford and attracts over 15,000 people.
This year, celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer, Mark Hix will be extolling the virtues of this versatile and vibrant green superfood.
“I love watercress; its peppery kick is great to add to pretty much any recipe and it’s so good for you too. There’s nothing better than freshly harvested British watercress and I can’t wait to show festival goers what can be done with it. I’m also judging the Watercress Food Awards where I will get a chance to see how some of Hampshire’s best artisanal producers are using watercress in their products and choose the most innovative.”
As well as Mark, other professional chefs, including the delightful Lesley Walters, will be performing on the cookery demonstration stand, while over 140 craft and food stall holders will be selling their wares, local music groups will perform, street entertainers will occupy the children, and there’s a chance to ride on the heritage steam railway, The Watercress Line, so called because of its vital role in taking fresh watercress to London’s markets in its Victorian heyday.
A cavalcade starts the day’s celebrations with the newly crowned Watercress King and Queen throwing bunches of freshly harvested watercress to the crowds lining the streets. To end the day the World Watercress Eating Championships provide a memorable spectacle – anyone is welcome to take part in the challenge of eating 80g of watercress in the fastest time.
Watercress in the UK is largely grown in Hampshire and Dorset. It is farmed in Victorian watercress beds fed by sweet, mineral filled water that bubbles up from underground aquifers. The watercress plants take up nutrients and minerals from the water which helps to make it one of the healthiest vegetables available. Watercress contains over 50 vital vitamins and minerals, and gram for gram contains more calcium than milk, more vitamin C than an orange, more folate than a banana and more vitamin E than broccoli. The classic peppery hot kick associated with watercress is down to high levels of a naturally occurring compound has also been scientifically proven to help prevent certain cancers, and to aid post-exercise recovery.
This only scratches the surface of why watercress is so good for you. If you want to learn more, health experts and nutritionists will be on stage at the Alresford Watercress Festival to explain just why and how eating watercress can improve your mood, boost your gut health, lower your blood pressure and help support your immune system.
For more information and to keep up to date with new attractions being added to the day visit www.watercressfestival.org.
For recipes, visit www.watercress.co.uk and for more information about the health benefits of watercress go to www.thewatercresscompany.com