The culinary world of small leaves and buds shows a lush range of tastes that has nothing to do with the small cress pots from the supermarket.
“You will have goosebumps on your tongue.” Marcel Thiele never fails to impress his guests when they taste Sechuan Cress or Sechuan Buttons for the first time. A small plant with cone-shaped leaves and spherical, yellow flowers. It is not for nothing that the paracress species is also known as tingling buttons. “The taste buds in the mouth rise up and expand the taste perception by a factor of 20,” explains Thiele. The cress with its peppery heat stimulates salivation, which ensures that aromas remain longer and more intense on the palate. The effervescent tingling sensation is not the only phenomenon. In Africa, paracress is eaten as a remedy for malaria. Scientific studies have proven that especially the flowers contain substances that can kill parasites in the blood. That’s why many locals season their food with it to reduce the risk of illness.
Cress is much more than the well-known garden cress. The green delight far too precious to land on the plate as a nice decoration only. Botanically speaking, however, only nasturtium with its brightly coloured flowers, para- and, indeed, garden cress belong to the type of cress, as in cress in the true sense. Most of the other leaves called cress are just sprouted, young shoots, so-called micro-greens, which are cared for “like a little bonsai,” according to Thiele. They can be many things, vegetables or cereals. And often pack a bunch more power than the harvest-ready plants.
Broccoli is considered part of an extremely healthy diet because the cabbage contains the mustard oil sulforaphane, which stimulates the body to make antioxidants for the protection of cells. The broccoli crustacean, which is only a few centimetres in size, “has 90 times more sulforaphane than the fully ripened head from the field,” explains food scout Thiele. “A real superfood without a marketing seal.“
Scarlet cress, as it is called by the Dutch company “Koppert Cress,” for which Marcel Thiele works, is an amaranth variety and the young seedling tastes like beetroot. The finest oil puréed with Tahoon cress emanates a scent of roasted beechnuts.
The sharp nasturtium comes from South America, where it not only seasoned dishes, but was also considered a remedy. In order to preserve the original ingredients, the cress specialists allow so-called mother plants to thrive again in the open air in their country of origin and bring the seeds to Europe.
Their medical powers are mainly found in the seedlings, the Zorri cress. The latter is also a spicy tongue-tickler.
Picture: Marcel Thiele