Organisers of the 19th Alresford Watercress Festival are setting lovers of the salad leaf a huge challenge – can you defeat the world watercress eating champion?

The May 21 contest will involve eating 80 grams of watercress in the fastest time – and Alresford’s Glenn Walsh has won the title 14 years running!

That event will be the climax of this free day out, which attracts more than 15,000 people to the capital of watercress.

But it also starts with a bang as two children riding in an open carriage as the Watercress King and Queen throw bunches of freshly-harvested watercress to the crowds lining the streets.

The festival celebrates the start of the UK watercress season and chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix is the star guest.

He said: “I love watercress – its peppery kick is great to add to pretty much any recipe and it’s so good for you too. There’s nothing better than freshly-harvested British watercress and I can’t wait to show festival goers what can be done with it.

“I’m also judging the watercress food awards, where I will get a chance to see how some of Hampshire’s best artisanal producers are using watercress in their products, and choose the most innovative.”

Other chefs will also perform on the cookery demonstration stand, and there will be 140 craft and food stalls, local music groups, street entertainers and the Watercress Line to enjoy.

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