Talking About Nasturtiums

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Posted by @wildflowers on
I have a personal fondness for this old-fashioned flower. Its delicate fragrance takes me back to when I was a young girl spending many hours in the garden. The taste of the sweet nectar from the spur of the nasturtium, the skipper butterflies fluttering around, and the ladybugs . . . I'm transported back in time.

That was many years ago but nasturtium is still a favorite flower of mine. Looking back, I think the flowers were placed there for their practical aspects as much as their beauty in the garden. They certainly attracted many beneficial insects!

Nasturtium, Tropaeolu m majus is closely related to watercress. Originating from South America, nasturtium made its way here and became quite popular as a salad ingredient. The seeds were also used pickled and as a seasoning, much like capers. Victorian women used it in tussie-mussies to ward off unpleasant smells. Yes, the notorious tussie-mussie has a rather colorful past, one of which is probably suitable for another time.

So, as I was saying, the nasturtium has edible leaves and flowers that have a pungent aroma when bitten into as well as a peppery taste. It typically climbs on trailing stems and has circular leaves with radiating veins. The flowers are always bright and cheery, colored in various degrees of red, orange and yellow. Although it will grow in full sun to part shade, it needs regular watering, especially if you live where summers are hot, like here in Texas.

 2010-04-13/wildflowers/803d83 2010-04-12/wildflowers/6ffa26

It's easy to grow. I know, because I have been successful planting the seeds in late spring, sowing them directly into the ground. Don't bother fertilizing your nasturtiums or you will end up with lots of green leaves and very few flowers. Plant it in poor soil and it will flower like crazy.

This lovely plant is also very versatile and makes a great companion plant to many in the garden. Most veggies in the cabbage family find it to be a very nice neighbor, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, as well as cucumbers and zucchini. Why wouldn't they like having nasturtium around since it deters the pesky cucumber beetles, wooly aphids, whiteflies, and striped pumpkin beetles. So . . . are you planting some nasturtium in your garden? It will make an excellent edging or barrier around your cabbage, or trailing along side your cucurbits. This plant is also known to be one of the best around at attracting predatory insects, like our friend the ladybug.

And you can use it in the kitchen! Both the leaves and flowers can be added to salads, or as a nice spicy addition to some cucumber sandwiches, open faced of course, for a dramatic look. Nasturtiums have been a popular culinary and medicinal herb for centuries and are often grown for their young leaves. It is claimed that they have a tonic effect on the nervous system. Medicinally, the herb was used as a digestive and to cure urinary disorders. The seeds were used also, taken as an internal cleaner and of special benefit to the blood. Some herbalists claim that it improves eyesight and others claim that it postpones baldness.

I'm growing an heirloom nasturtium, Tropaeolum minus, which is descriptive of some of the 50 species in this genus. I have been wanting to get another heirloom called Empress of India that has beautiful rich red flowers, but it's still on my "want list."

Zesty Spring Salad

6 oz fresh spinach leaves

4 oz fresh arugula leaves

1 Lg bunch fresh watercress

6-8 nasturtium flowers

1 Sm orange, cut in half, 1/2 peeled and sectioned

Balsamic vinegar

Mix together the leaves of spinach, arugula and watercress. Add the orange sections, squeeze the other half orange over the salad and toss. Splash with balsamic vinegar. Scatter the nasturtium flowers over the top for a dramatic splash of color.

Sometimes I'll add blueberries or whatever else is ready in the garden, or some toasted nuts! Yum!

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Pickled seeds by gingin Mar 8, 2014 10:21 AM 5
I Just Planted Some Last Week! by stephanietx May 24, 2010 8:53 PM 0
Nasturtium transplants OK by ApopkaJohn Apr 18, 2010 4:05 PM 6
I love them too by taynors Apr 14, 2010 5:44 AM 2
I'm headed out to buy more seeds for my garden! by Sonoita Apr 13, 2010 4:10 PM 3
The easiest by valleylynn Apr 13, 2010 1:57 PM 4
Great Artical! by Steven Apr 13, 2010 8:10 AM 1
Wish I had pictures! by Dea Apr 12, 2010 4:00 PM 1

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