The Alresford Watercress Festival, held on Sunday 19 May, welcomed over 18,000 people to mingle in the streets of the pretty Georgian market town and absorb the atmosphere awash with watercress! From cookery demos, health talks, food stalls laden with watercress inspired produce, and the hilarious World Watercress Eating Championships there was no mistaking what they were here to celebrate.
However, for many people coming to the Festival it is the first time they actually try eating watercress, let alone explore using it in popular foodstuffs such as smoothies or pesto. That’s where the Festival’s chosen charity comes into its own.
The Joe Glover Trust is a Winchester based charity, established in memory of 8 year old cancer sufferer, Joe Glover. It has been the official charity for the Watercress Festival for over 10 years and each year festival goers are encouraged to donate what they can spare in exchange for bags of fresh watercress, watercress smoothies or pesto. Over the years well over £30,000 has been raised at this one event. The charity helps children diagnosed with cancer to cope with the disease and all it throws at them while supporting their families as they deal with difficult times during treatment and sadly, for many, what may come after.
Tom Amery, MD for The Watercress Company explains how important the Joe Glover Trust is to the Festival: “The Festival is all about shouting about watercress, its health benefits, demonstrating its versatility in cooking and simply encouraging trial. The Joe Glover Trust team is just fabulous at getting people to try watercress with their cheerful enthusiasm and the public are glad to donate something in return to this wonderful charity.”
At this year’s Festival a massive £4830 was raised.
Jane Wilmshurst Fundraising and Event Manager for the Joe Glover Trust said: “The Watercress Festival is one of my favourite events to attend and we are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the people who come to Alresford for the day. There’s always a great atmosphere and we’ve been lucky with the weather which adds to the happy mood. We feel very honoured to have been the organisers’ official charity for so many years. I have to thank the wonderful team of volunteers from businesses such as Nationwide and law firm Trethowans who helped engage the crowds and tempt them with the watercress, smoothies and pesto. They all worked incredibly hard, but it was definitely worth it- what a fabulous final total!”
It’s not just because watercress is a local crop that partnering with the Joe Glover Trust seems appropriate as the Festival’s official charity but there is a scientific reason too. Over a decade ago medical research demonstrated that there is a clear link between watercress and the prevention of certain cancers. A compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), which occurs in high levels in watercress, was shown to reduce the level of DNA damage which causes cancers and also increases the ability of cells to resist DNA damage. More studies are underway to better understand the connection but one thing’s for sure, eating watercress can only do you good!
Watercress is one of the healthiest, if not THE healthiest vegetable you can eat – it’s packed full of over 50 vital vitamins and minerals and gram for gram contains more calcium than milk, more vitamin C than orange, more folate than banana and more vitamin E than broccoli. It’s also high in fibre and a rich source of iron.
It’s best eaten raw but equally as good whizzed up in a smoothie. If you’re intrigued and would like to give the Watercress Smoothie a go, here’s the recipe: