This weekend, with weather as lovely has it was, it seemed the perfect time to do something quintessentially British for the afternoon! The Alresford Watercress Festival celebrates the towns history with the crop, which has been grown in the pure spring water and enjoyed by locals for centuries but only with the introduction of railway in 1865 did it reach the wider population. Today, the mineral rich springs still feed the River Arle offering the perfect growing conditions, and it's still the country's main area of production.
Every year in May, this Georgian town throws a festival to celebrate this crop and encourage food lovers to come for new ideas for recipes, and also to enjoy the farmers market and local producers, we had a great time!
Watercress has been enjoyed as a Super Food for centuries as it's packed full of nutrients and minerals, and believed to have originated in Ancient Greece when Hippocrates used it to treat patients, and the Greek army even ate it before a battle to improve their vigour! But in Britain, it came into fashion in the Victorian era, when it was said to cleanse the blood and it became common in the staple diet of the working classes, hence the nickname 'Poor Man's Bread' as often they had to make do with just the leaves instead of bread. Despite this, watercress was seemingly a 'classless' ingredient though, with the rich enjoying watercress soups and sauces.
Gram for gram, watercress contains as much vitamin C as oranges, more calcium than whole milk and more iron than spinach. Nowadays research suggests it could play an important role in the field of cancer prevention. Inspired to get buying some yet? I couldn't wait to buy some bunches, very reasonably priced compared to supermarkets too, and a far cry from the soggy pre-packed supermarkets option! I've just been eating it raw all weekend, beautiful! If you fancy some recipe inspiration, click HERE.
We arrived just in time for the Morris Dancers, who were stoically carrying on in the heat! I believe these were Border Morris style, a simper looser style with the hats and blackened face originated from the English/Wales Border, but there were also the chaps below, who had the more widely recognised handkerchiefs to accompany the dancing. Both were highly entertaining, good for them for hitting the pub afterwards! The Bell Inn is a Grade Two listed former coaching inn, and is quite the statement on the high street, what an amazing colour!
We sat and watched the Jazz bands with drink after a some great burgers, Gramps had local ale and I had to have Pimms, complete with watercress garnish naturally! Can we just appreciate my Grandad's summer style here? Fashion icon! It was very VERY hot, wishing I didn't feel such a plonker in hats, I was certainly in need of one! I bought some great local goats cheeses and the best cinnamon buns I've had on these fair shores! What a lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday!
Hope you were out enjoying the sunshine, lets hope it returns for the Bank Holiday eh?
Thanks for reading!