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Friday, July 11, 2014

Cresson, Cresson de Fontaine - Watercress on the French Menu.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

Cresson de Fontaine or Cresson – Watercress.
For the French cress is almost always cresson de fontaine, watercress.  When, on a French menus the diner sees cresson he or she expects watercress.Other cress will have their full name.
Watercress on sale in a French market
Photograph courtesy of MillNe T.
The watercress on your menu will have been farmed and so it will not be as sharp as  wild watercress.  As a child my brother and I collected wild watercress in the slow running corners of streams in the English Lake District, and that watercress was spicy.  When dining in the France’s countryside the local mushroom and herb gatherers, the ramasseurs de champignons et herbes, may be supplying the restaurant with wild watercress; then you are in for a treat.  
On your menu you may be offered:
 Les Langoustines Côtières au Vert de Cresson, Céleri et Radis - Dublin Bay prawns, scampi, caught in coastal waters, prepared with a sauce made from the juice of watercress, and served with celery and radishes.

Noix de Saint Jacques Grillées, Blancs de Poireaux à la Crème, Coulis de Cresson. Scallop meat, without the shell, grilled and served with creamed leeks and pureed watercress.

Salade de Cresson et Raviole de Chèvre Frais – A watercress salad served with ravioli made with fresh goat’s cheese.

Salade de Pommes de Terre au Haddock et Cresson – A potato salad served with cold smoked haddock and watercress. (X)
Watercress flowers.
Photograph courtesy of John Tann
Velouté de Cresson de Méréville- A velvety watercress soup, made with the watercress grown in Méréville.

Cream of watercress soup.
Photograph courtesy of French Tart

A French chef told me and I have checked, watercress is also good for you. It has plenty of Vitamin A and C and no Sodium; watercress even has a little calcium.

Garden cress is the most popular cress in Britain and called cressonnette or alénois cressonnette in France. Garden cress is appreciated in France, but not enough to be  on many menus.
Garden cress.
Photograph courtesy of Mycatkins.
The famed watercress of Méréville 
Cresson de Méréville  is the most highly rated cultivated watercress in France. It is grown around the town of Méréville in the department of Essonne in the region of Ile-de-France.  By car Méréville is an hour and a quarter from Paris 74 km (45 miles)  They have been cultivating watercress in Méréville for over one-hundred years.

Visit a French watercress fair.

If you are really into watercress then visit the Foire Annuelle au Cresson de Méréville , the fair of watercress in Méréville. The fair is is held from Saturday through Monday on the Easter weekend;  Easter is a national, and not a religious holiday in France though some 10% of the population may go to church. .At the watercress fair some sixty exhibitors will be outside city hall and selling everything from wine,cheeses, herbs, lessons in cooking with cress and, of course, watercress .  However, always check the dates in advance as occasionally fairs do change dates,

Cultivating watercress in Méréville.
Photograph courtesy of David_Reverchon.

The famous, but dilapidated Jardin de Méréville, the garden of Méréville, was a splendid and unique Anglo-Chinese garden when it was built in 1787; it was designed by the architect Bellanger and the painter Hubert Robert. Now it is being restored to its former glory; group tours are being held even before the full restoration is complete.  Tickets to tour the garden may be reserved before arrival.  If the garden is closed on the day, you intend to be in the area, worry not; travel in any direction from Méréville and you will find chateaux, castles and gardens by the score.  The town of Méréville, if you also remember, plays an important part in Les Misérables.

The Garden of Mereville.
Photograph courtesy of David- Méréville Reverchon.

Travelling to Méréville

The tourist information their website is in French only; however with Google translate or Bing Translator you will have most of the information you need. 
Office de Tourisme de la région Beauce-Méréville.
To arrange for a visit to the gardens and other places in the area send an email to: If you have a French speaker around you may call the office at +33-1-64 95- 18 00

Watercress in the languages of Frances neighbours:
(German – brunnenkresse), (Italian – crescione),(Spanish - berro),

Watercress in other languages:
 (Arabic - نبات البقلة)–  (Chinese -豆瓣, Dòubàn), (Danish – brøndkarse) (Dutch-  waterkers),  (Filipino -  kangkong) , (Greek – κάρδαμο, kárdamo), , (Korean –물냉이, mulnaeng-i), (Hebrew – rashad, ראשד, רשד),(Indonesian - seladri air),(Japanese -クレソン, Kureson), (Malay - selada air),(Russian-  кресс водяной, kress vodyanoy),(Serbian – поточарка, potočarka), (Swedish – vattenkrasse), Turkish - su teresi),  (Ukrainian - крес водяний, kres vodyanyy). (Latin -  Nasturtium officinale).  Thanks to Google Translate for most of these translations.

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014.

For more information on the unpublished book behind  this blog contact Bryan Newman