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First watercress of the season delivered to Tesco store in Dorchester
Due to the mild spring, British watercress is available a week early and residents of Dorchester in Dorset, England are reaping the benefits with a hand-delivery to the town’s Tesco of the very first of the season’s crop. The Dorchester store has been selected because Tesco sales in 2016 and 2017 have confirmed that residents of the county town buy more watercress per head of population than anywhere else in the UK.
From right to left: James Harper, Store Manager Eddie Garlick, Tom Amery
Watercress remains a vital industry in Dorset with The Watercress Company employing over 80 people in the county. The British appetite for watercress is so great that there’s even an annual Watercress Festival to celebrate the start of the new season. This year it takes place on Sunday 21 May in Alresford, Hampshire, known as the ‘Capital of Watercress’ and the town around which many of the Hampshire based watercress farms are located.
"Sales of organic watercress are going very well and we are selling more than ever," explained James Harper, Commercial Manager at The Watercress Company (TWC). "It is a side of the business which is really growing, we are also doing more organic sales into Holland and Denmark."
TWC’s watercress is sold loose to Bakkavor, a leading food group who then pack and sell it to retailers.
"We were in a good position at the beginning of the year when there was a salad shortage," said James. "We had a very strong supply as we have invested heavily overseas in the few years. We saw a big spike in sales as people turned to watercress and that uplift seems to be continuing after many people have tried it for the first time."
In the 80's the company invested in a farm in Jerez in Southern Spain, one of the wettest areas of Spain, but due to the location, when the East of Spain got all the wet weather in Murcia, the farm wasn't affected. Due to the rainfall and the mountains they have very high quality spring water there so they can produce watercress in exactly the same way as in the UK. Since the 1990s the company have also invested heavily in a farm in Florida to provide high volumes needed during the winter.
UK production is a week ahead of normal, it would have been further ahead but it was slowed down a bit by the recent cold snap.
As well as cut watercress, fresh wasabi and other salad leaves, The Watercress Company has helped develop a range of products from smoothies for patients at local Dorset County Hospital, to watercress chocolates made by Dorset firm Chococo and the peppery leaf has even found its way into a watercress gin. The Winchester Distillery who produce, “Twisted Nose Gin” named after the latin translation for watercress, nasturtium offifinale, have moved premises to one of the companies farms to utilise the mineral-rich spring water and abundant fresh watercress.
It also seems that watercress’ popularity is expanding into other tipples and, with the interest in craft beers increasing, The Watercress Company, has collaborated with Cerne Abbas Brewery to try its hand at brewing a limited-edition watercress inspired ale called Watercress Warrior, which will be released on the 15 of May.
Cheers to that and the official start of the British season!
For more information:James Harper
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