The nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is my family’s favorite plant. The leaves, flowers, and seed pods are edible and beautiful. They have a floral, peppery flavor. Grayson says they’re spicy. My daughter always picks a handful and walks around nibbling on them while she enjoys their beauty. I’ve heard that rabbits hate them and planting them around the edges of your vegetable garden is a good bunny deterrent.
There are many varieties of nasturtiums. Some are climbing types and others are short and bushy. The flowers are about 2.5 inches in diameter and come in many, many colors. They are easy to grow from seed and actually flower better in poor soil. A rich soil will give you a lot of leaves and few flowers. My favorite website for viewing the different nasturtium varieties and buying seeds is at sunrise seeds. They look and taste great in salads, sandwiches, pasta, and vegetable dishes. I love them stuffed with cream cheese. A great recipe for nasturtium vinegar and other recipes by Peter Crowley can be found at gardnermuseum.org. If you were interested in making capers from the seed pod, I found a recipe for “poor man’s caper”. The bottled capers at the grocery store come from the unopened flower bud of a Mediterranean bush called Capparis spinosa.
Nasturtiums are really easy to grow from seed. I like to plant them around the edges in my larger containers with my citrus trees. The trailing variety cascades beautifully down the sides of the pot. I’ve observed that nasturtiums don’t do well in Florida when the summer heat gets oppressive. I usually pull them out. It’s an easy chore because they are quite delicate.
I make a nasturtium salad dressing that my family often asks for. It’s really easy and fast to mix and I store the unused portion in the refrigerator. The recipe is: 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, a couple of squeezes of lime or lemon juice, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 3-4 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of chopped nasturtium stems. I mix it well because the honey settles to the bottom. To make it creamy, I add plain yogurt. I use the nasturtium flowers as a garnish or I toss them on top of a salad.
I like nasturtiums chopped up and mixed with butter and chives too.
My three-year-old loves to eat them out of hand, but she is always pleasantly surprised when I serve her sliced cucumbers with different colored nasturtium flowers. She’ll nibble a couple off the plate, but they are mostly for color and to make her food look appetizing.
Come grow with us!