Can you eat nasturtium leaves

Edible Landscaping – Edible of the Month: Nasturtium


Bright yellow nasturtium flowers rise above the foliage for a cheery display in the garden.

In the world of edible annual flowers, nasturtiums are one of the tastiest and easiest to grow. Nasturtiums grow quickly from seed and, depending on the variety, can be grown as climbers on fences and trellises or as bushy plants in a window boxes and containers. Although treated as annuals, these fast growing plants are technically herbaceous perennials. In frost-free areas of the South and West they grow so vigorously that many people consider them weeds.

The biggest surprise with nasturtiums is the taste. In Latin nasturtium literally means “nose twist.” While most edible flowers have a subtle flavor, nasturtiums knock your socks off with their peppery taste. Plus, it’s not just the flowers and buds that are packed with a zippy flavor; the young leaves are tender and edible as well. Nasturtiums are popular with chefs and home gardeners because their colorful flowers not only dress up a plate, they’re high in vitamins A, C (10 times as much as lettuce), and D.

Planning

While there are several species of nasturtiums, most popular varieties are one of two common species. Tropaeolum majus is a trailing type that can be trained to climb. Tropaeolum minus is a bush type. Nasturtium flowers range from pastels, such as pale yellow, to vibrant oranges and reds, and are available in single or double flowers. You can purchase seed mixes that produce plants in a variety of flower colors, or single-color packets. Most modern varieties have been bred so the flowers stand above the foliage, making them especially striking in the garden.

Here are some of the best selections:

  • ‘Apricot Twist’. The vines of this trailing variety grow 3 to 4 feet long and the camellia-like double flowers are apricot-orange splashed with raspberry red.
  • ‘Empress of India’. This semi-bush selection produces 1- to 2-foot vines and features large, bright scarlet flowers that contrast well with the blue-green leaves.
  • ‘Hermine Grashoff’. The vines of this trailer grow 3 to 4 feet long and produce red-orange, camellia-like double flowers.
  • Jewel of Africa mix. This 4- to 6-foot-long trailing mix includes yellow, red, cream, and pink flowers with unique variegated leaves.
  • ‘Moonlight’. The vines of this trailer grow up to 7 feet long and produce unusual, pale yellow flowers.
  • ‘Night and Day’. This mix produces compact plants with 12-inch vines and flowers in both white and deep red.
  • ‘Peach Melba’. This bush variety has cream flowers with a raspberry red throat.
  • ‘Salmon Baby’. The flowers on this bush variety are a striking shade of salmon.
  • ‘Strawberries & Cream’. This bush variety features flowers in pale yellow with splashes of strawberry red.
  • Tall Trailing mix. The vines of this vigorous trailer grow 8 to 10 feet long. Flower colors include rose, yellow, and orange.
  • Tip Top Alaska mix. The vines of this bush-type mix grow just 10 inches long. Flower colors include yellow, crimson, orange, cherry, and salmon, held above variegated foliage.
  • Whirlybird mix . This bush variety is available as a mix of flower colors, or in separate colors, including cream, salmon, gold, and cherry rose. The flowers are semi-double.


The mounded shape of nasturtiums makes them a nice border plant, and the water lily-like leaves are as edible as the bright flowers.

Site Selection

Nasturtiums flower best in full sun, but still grow well in partly shaded locations, especially in hot-summer areas. They love cool, damp, well-drained soil. If plants begin to flag in the heat of summer, cut them back and they’ll regrow and flower again when cooler weather arrives in fall.

Planting

Nasturtiums thrive on neglect and don’t require rich soil. In fact, if you amend soil with too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer or manure, you’ll get lots of dark green foliage and few flowers. In all but the richest soils, amend the planting area by mixing in a 1-inch layer of compost. Plants shouldn’t need supplemental fertilizing during the growing season.


Nasturtiums are available in flower colors ranging from the palest yellow to the deepest red.

Nasturtium seeds are large and easy to handle. Sow seeds 10 to 12 inches apart in the garden about a week before the last frost date for your area. Seedlings can also be started indoors, but their taproots make them difficult to transplant. If you do grow them indoors, start them in peat pots. When roots show through the pots’ drainage holes, transplant the seedlings, peat pot and all, into the garden.

Care

After sowing, keep the bed well watered and weed-free, and within two months you’ll see vigorous growth and abundant flowers. Nasturtiums are relatively trouble-free. Aphids may feed on the new leaves and flowers. Wash these soft-bodied insects off the plant with frequent sprays of water or use insecticidal soap.


Beautiful ‘Peach Melba’ nasturtium flowers are a delight in any garden or salad.

Harvest

For salads, harvest nasturtium flower buds, flowers, and young leaves in the cool of the morning when flowers have just opened. The more heat-stressed the plant, the more pungent the leaves and flowers will taste. Gently wash and dry the flowers and leaves and use immediately or store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Although you can eat the whole flower, if the flavor is too strong use only the milder-tasting petals.

You can also use nasturtiums in stir-fries, cook them with pasta, and stuff the flowers. More ambitious cooks can try grinding the seeds to use as a pepper substitute and in flavored oils, and pickling the flower buds or immature seedpods to use as a substitute for capers.

Other great nasturtium stories:

Stunning Compact Nasturtium

Growing Edible Flowers

The English language is funny. Sometimes we use the same word for completely different things; you know, just to make things a little more confusing.

Such is the case for nasturtium. Nasturtium can refer to the plant genus, which is the genus of seven plant species in the Brassicaceae family. The nasturtium we’re concerned about is the Tropaeolaceae, which is commonly known as nasturtium.

It is also the genus of almost 80 species of flowering plants, some of which can survive the winter at altitudes of 10,000 feet and up!

Nasturtium plants are best known for their intensely bright yellow, orange, and red flowers, but their lush, round leaves are also edible and incredibly delicious.

The plant first arrived in Spain in 1569 thanks to Spanish botanist Nicolás Monardes, who wrote extensively about all of the plans and animals he discovered during his trip to South America. The name Tropaeolum majus was given to the plant by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.

Linnaeus named them as such because he vibrant petals reminded him of an ancient Roman customer, where they would set up trophy poles (tropaeum, which stems from he Greek word tropaion) on which the armor and weapons of those the Roman army defeated were hung. To Linnaeus, the leaves looked like shields, and the red flowers looked like blood-stained helmets.

A touch of beauty

When it came to eating these plants, nasturtiums weren’t consumed until it was taken to the East, where they were eaten and used for tea.

Nasturtium carries a mildly peppery flavor with an aroma reminiscent of mustard. For some time, it was also known as “Indian cresses” due to the similar flavor profile between nasturtium and watercress, and because they were introduced from the Americas (then known as “The Indies”).

Now, they are a great way to kick up your salads, adding a brilliant punch of color. As well, more chefs around the world are using it to create absolutely stunning plates of art. Many wedding cakes now are also decorated with nasturtiums, giving them some beautiful life.

Not just a pretty face

Both the leaves and petals of the nasturtium plant are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C. It has the ability to improve the immune system, tackling sore throats, coughs, and colds, as well as bacterial and fungal infections.

These plants also contain high amounts of manganese, iron, flavonoids, and beta carotene.

Studies have shown that the leaves also have antibiotic properties, and suggest that they are the most effective prior to flowering.

Nasturtium is used in traditional medicine, treating a wide range of illnesses and conditions, such as hair loss.

Add some nasturtium to your diet today, either in your food, or on it! Nasturtium is the star of the show in this recipe for baby greens with roasted beets and potatoes:

Baby Greens with Roasted Beets and Potatoes

From Gourmet

Ingredients
FOR VINAIGRETTE
1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon white-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
FOR SALAD
2 medium beets (1 lb with greens; 14 oz without greens), stems trimmed to 2 inches
1 lb small new potatoes (about 1 inch in diameter) or fingerlings (1 to 1 1/2 inches long), scrubbed well
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 oz microgreens* such as baby Bibb, red-leaf, and oak-leaf lettuces and baby arugula, or mesclun (about 10 cups)
4 cups baby spinach (3 oz)
1/3 cup lovage* leaves, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh chervil and/or dill leaves
1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves
20 unsprayed organic nasturtium blossoms

Method:
MAKE VINAIGRETTE:
Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
ROAST BEETS AND POTATOES:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
Wrap beets individually in foil and roast on a baking sheet in upper third of oven until tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Once beets have roasted for 30 minutes, toss potatoes with oil and salt in a small baking pan and roast in lower third of oven, shaking pan occasionally, until potatoes are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Carefully unwrap beets and cool slightly, then slip off and discard skins.
ASSEMBLE SALAD:
Cut beets into 1/3-inch dice and put in a large salad bowl. Cut potatoes into 1/3-inch-thick slices and add to beets along with all greens and herbs. Add vinaigrette and toss gently to coat.
Sprinkle blossoms on top and serve immediately.

Or, what about having nasturtium leaves in your pesto?

Nasturtium Pesto

From Martha Stewart

Ingredients
2 cups nasturtium leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced nasturtium stems
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Add nasturtium leaves to boiling water; cook for 10 seconds. Drain and transfer to ice-water bath until cool. Drain and set aside.
Place leaves, pine nuts, garlic, and oil in the jar of a blender; blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and fold in stems and cheese.

Nasturtium can be easily grown in an Urban Cultivator, taking as little as one week to grow, and yielding over a cup of beautiful lush leaves. It makes growing your own food that much easier!

How do you like to eat your nasturtium? Let us know in the comments section!

Not just pretty, edible flowers pack nutritional punch | The Kansas City Star

Do you ever wonder why chefs put nasturtium flowers in your salads?

My mom used to put them in salads and cook them in greens — lambs quarter and squares root —as she called them when we were growing up.

Little did I know at the time the nutrition value of the nasturtium? I thought it was only for looks in a salad.

In the cooked greens, I just thought my mom hadn’t picked enough and needed more for all of us kids to eat.

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Nasturtium originated from northwestern South America. This annual plant includes more than 100 varieties.

In the 16th Century, the plant was introduced to Europe where it became known as Indian cress. It’s thought this was because of the confusion, at that time, between the Indies and India, and also because the flavor of the nasturtium leaves is similar to cress.

In the 1800s, the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus named the genus Tropaeolaceae, which included nasturtium, after the Latin work tropaeolum, meaning trophy. Linnaeus compared the funnel shape of nasturtium’s flowers to battle helmets and its flat leaves to shields, which were traditionally hung on trees after an army was victorious.

Nasturtium plants were not valued as food until they were taken to the orient where the petals and buds were eaten and used to make tea.

Nasturtium flowers and buds have a slight spicy flavor with a mustard-like aroma. They can be added to salads, but are best added after the vinaigrette so as to preserve their shape. The buds or seeds can be pickled and used as an alternative to capers.

The leaves and petals of nasturtium are extremely nutritious as they contain vitamin C and iron. The leaves also have antibiotic properties which are at their most effective just before the plant flowers.

In traditional medicine, an ointment is made from nasturtium flowers and used to treat skin conditions as well as hair loss. The group of phenols in the pigments of orange and red flowers helps naturalize the damaging effects of free radicals, thereby helping to protect us from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Here’s an easy recipe to try:

Nasturtium Pesto 2 cups nasturtium leaves 1/2 cup thinly sliced nasturtium stems 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts 4 cloves garlic 1 cup olive oil 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Add nasturtium leaves to boiling water and cook for 10 seconds. Drain and transfer to ice-water bath until cool. Drain and set aside. Place leaves, pine nuts, garlic and oil in the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and fold in stems and cheese.

Note:

I have thrown everything in a blender including the stems and cheese and processed and it worked fine.

Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.Lots of chefs like to garnish things with flowers, they’re pretty, but often that’s about it.

Nasturtiums though? They’re a completely different story. They’re not only beautiful, but have a great flavor-candy sweet and peppery like watercress, all at the same time.

With how good they taste, It’s surprising to me that more people don’t know about them. Most of my friends in the industry are aware, but the general public doesn’t seem to know yet.

My mom used to work part time at a flower shop. After I told her how much I love these, she started pitching them to customers on the basis of being edible, not surprisingly, she sold much more of them when people know they serve a dual purpose.

From a kitchen stand point, all you want to do with these is throw them raw on plates and salads, it’s ok to dress the leaves lightly, but the flowers will wilt quickly tossed in a dressing.

The flower buds can be pickled to make capers, like dandelions and plenty of other buds, but I like the flowers so much that unless I somehow got a massive quantity of buds, I would just as rather incorporate them into salads and garnishes.

My favorite variety has pretty mottled leaves.

Flavor-wise, there’s a little difference between the leaves and flowers that’s worth mentioning. The leaves start out sweet, and end spicy, a bit like mustard greens or cress. The flowers have a pleasant flavor, and taste just like you’d imagine a flower would taste-aromatic and floral. The flowers have a bit of the spicy-ness of the leaves too, but they’re no where near as potent. Either way, they go great together on a dish. If I’m pinching pennies, I’ll order only the leaves, since they’re much cheaper, and have a longer shelf life than the flowers.

Here’s some other random knowledge bites:

  • If you’re growing the nasturtiums yourself, remember that a little pruning here and there is good for growth, don’t be afraid to clip leaves and flowers here and there to eat, it spurs the plant to create more.
  • Make sure if you’re picking flowers to eat, or sell, that you pick them at the best time: after the dew is gone, but before the sun makes everything wilt.
  • There are a number of different species, but the pretties in my opinion are the variegated nasturtiums-they have a bi-color, mottled looking leaf.
  • When you pick nasturtiums to sell or refrigerate for eating (i.e. put in a plastic container) put a large leaf on top of the small leaves to keep them sheltered from light and the elements.

If you have a garden with some free space, add them to your repertoire, you won’t regret it!

Nasturtiums are currently on my wild-mint cured salmon at The Salt Cellar

Nasturtiums are gorgeous, helpful companion plants with vibrantly colored blooms. Although they’re considered annuals, they easily re-seed themselves without intervention, so you know they’ll come back year after year. They have a cornucopia of other benefits for both garden and gardener, being edible and medicinal in addition to drawing beneficial pollinating insects. They can be grown indoors or outside, and create stunning cascades of color wherever you plant them. Below, we’ve listed several reasons why everyone needs nasturtiums in their garden.

1. Perfect for Beginner Gardeners (and Kids!)

Pezibear /

Every gardener needs easy growers to keep them engaged and enthusiastic. As such, nasturtiums are wonderful plants for beginners.

The seeds are large and easy to handle; this is a great plant to start from seed and a good plant for children to help grow since they almost always germinate.

2. Easy to Grow

Nasturtiums are incredibly prolific. In fact, in climates with year-round growing seasons, they can be considered a weed.

My experience has been: just put seeds in dirt, and they pretty much do the rest. Once you plant your seeds, you should begin to see growth in about 2 weeks.

3. They Work in Many Types of Gardens

uroburos /

No matter where you live or what kind of space you have, you can grow these flowers.

They can be planted in rock gardens, and they also do well in pots and window boxes. You can train them to climb up a trellis, or plant them so they tumble out of a decorative basket.

If you want a climbing or trailing variety look for Tropaeolum majus. On the other hand, if you want a bushier variety for a pot, try Tropaeolum minus.

4. They’re Drought-Tolerant

This is one of the best species you can plant if you live in an area that’s prone to drought. They don’t need much water, and do quite well on just a few sips a week.

Seriously, these flowers thrive on neglect.

5. Nasturtiums Thrive in Poor Soil (And Replenish It!)

jvdorp20 /

If you have poor soil quality in your garden and are worried that few things will grow there, nasturtiums are a perfect choice. They not only thrive in poor soil—they prefer it.

This is a species you can plant in depleted soil, and then allow to rot in the ground in fall. As they decompose, they’ll deposit calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and other minerals. After growing them repeatedly in the same spot for a few years, that soil will be able to support other plant life.

6. They Add Bright Splashes of Color

Nasturtiums come in vibrant red, orange and yellow varieties. Most seed packets you get come with a mix, so you can enjoy every shade imaginable. The blooms pop delightful color into your garden, and the leaves are large and have a lovely saucer shape to them.

7. Perfect as Ground Cover and Weed Barriers

Reisefreiheit_eu /

Since they trail and spread so prolifically, many people use nasturtiums as a ground cover, instead of grass. Carpets of blooms cover their land, without any need to mow or trim. By using them as “filler” in your garden beds, you use up available space so unwanted weeds don’t move in.

Since they’re completely edible, this option is both utilitarian and delicious.

8. Natural Poultry Pharmacy

Chickens love to snack on these flowers, so planting them around the coop means your birds can snack on them all day.

Since they’re packed with nutrients, they’ll help to keep your flock healthy. They’re naturally antibacterial, and can help fend off parasites that hens can be prone to.

9. Nasturtiums Attract Beneficial Insects

Hans /

They attract aphids and cabbage moths. This may not sound too great, but although they attract them, they also deter those buggers away from your vegetables. Cabbage moths, which can destroy brassicas, will lay their eggs under nasturtium leaves instead of on the brassica leaves.

If you find aphids or cabbage moths on your nasturtiums, try removing them with warm water.

Nasturtiums also attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. The bee colony collapse epidemic gets worse every year. Planting what we can to encourage bees to come—and providing food for them—is an important act for every gardener to undertake. Human survival and food chain security are directly dependent on honeybees. So grow nasturtiums!

10. They’re Invaluable Companion Plants

Companion planting is a system of planting various crops together for a variety of reasons, with the goal of maximum crop productivity. In the case of nasturtiums, they attract beneficial insects, repel bad ones, and confuse others.

Basically, their scent repels insects that would otherwise eat your other edibles. Insects that feed on your cabbages and such smell the nasturtiums first, and decide to feast elsewhere.

11. They Support Health

dungthuyvunguyen /

Nasturtiums can support the gardener’s health as much as the garden. Here are just some of the ways:

    • Soak chopped leaves in water (and then strain the leaves out) to make an easy all-natural disinfectant wash for minor cuts and scrapes.
    • Their tea can be used to treat urinary tract infections.
    • They’re so packed with vitamin C that eating a few leaves if you feel a cold or sore throat coming on, you can fend it off.
    • Since they have anti-fungal properties, applying them directly to the skin can alleviate athlete’s foot.

Note: Pregnant women should avoid eating nasturtiums entirely. Similarly, people with kidney disease should speak to their healthcare providers before eating any part of the plant.

How to Make Nasturtium Tea

Nasturtium tea can be used as a hair rinse or toner, and also makes a good mouthwash. You can also spray it on your plants to protect them against unwanted pests and bugs.

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup nasturtium flowers, leaves, and buds, and water

METHOD: Place the flowers, leaves, and buds into 4 cups of boiling water in a glass jug. Cover and allow to brew overnight, or for 8-10 hours. Strain and use as desired.

12. Ideal as Cut Flowers

JaStra /

Nasturtiums make beautiful flowers for a cutting garden. Their brilliant colors and unique foliage go well in flower arrangements, especially interspersed with blue and purple blooms.

If you grow other helpful companions like borage or dill, their flowers would make a beautiful addition.

13. It’s Easy to Save Their Seeds

It’s so easy to save seeds for planting again next year that you don’t even really need to be involved! Nasturtiums will self-seed if you let them be. Pull up some plants before they go to seed, however, or they’ll take over your garden.

Harvest as many seeds as you can at the end of the growing season for pickling or drying. Or, share seeds with fellow gardeners and spread the nasturtium love! Leave some alone and they’ll naturally come up when they are ready next year.

14. Every Part of Them is Edible

silviarita /

Nasturtium leaves, flower buds, flower petals, and seeds are all edible. If you have kids, edible flowers are a lot of fun for them to eat!

Leaves have a peppery taste to them. I use them like an herb, chopping them up and adding them to dishes that need a little zing, like pasta or potato salads, even homemade pesto. You can also stuff the bigger leaves with tuna, chicken or egg salad.

I’ve also seen some people stuff them with rice, ground meat, and spices, like Middle Eastern dolma. The older the leaves, the spicier the flavor so you might think about harvesting younger leaves for lower potency.

The flowers add beautiful color to anything you garnish them with. They look especially pretty in a salads, but you can also freeze them into ice cubes, or decorate cookies with them.

Seeds can be pickled and used in place of capers, or dried and used instead of peppercorns.

To pickle the seeds, pluck them while they’re still green and haven’t hardened. Put them in a glass bottle or jar and cover them with boiling vinegar: preferably white, or apple cider. They’ll be ready after soaking in the vinegar for three days, and don’t need refrigeration for up to a year.

How To Plant Nasturtiums

Hans /

No special care is really needed. Since they grow well in poor, dry soil, they don’t require frequent watering or fertilizers. They do like a bit of sun, but if you’re planting them as a companion for your vegetable garden, sunshine is already a given.

In places that experience scorching summers, nasturtiums might get stressed from the heat. Cut them back, and they’ll quickly re-sprout new greenery. If hot sun is too much of a problem, plant them in containers that can be moved to the shade at midday.

Plant them on them on the sides of your raised beds as a protective barrier from pests. Or if you don’t have raised beds, plant them in a perimeter around the whole garden.

There are so many wonderful benefits to growing nasturtiums in your garden, whether you have outdoor space or just enough room for a few window boxes. So plant some today!

Picking Nasturtiums To Eat – Learn How To Harvest Edible Nasturtiums

Nasturtium is an annual that you can grow for pretty foliage, climbing cover, and pretty flowers, but it can also be eaten. Both the flowers and leaves of the nasturtium are tasty eaten raw and fresh. Harvesting nasturtium plants as food is easy, as long as you know a few simple tips.

Edible Nasturtium Flowers and Leaves

Many people assume it is the leaves that are edible, like an herb or salad green, but you can use the flowers too, for culinary decoration and for eating. Both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery, spicy flavor and add a bite to green salads.

They can also be used in cooked dishes, but should be added in the last few minutes to avoid overcooking. Both the flowers and leaves, chopped, can be used in vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips. You can even stuff the larger leaves, like you would grape leaves. Use the flowers to decorate desserts too.

How to Harvest Edible Nasturtiums

Picking nasturtiums to eat is as simple as plucking off flowers and leaves as needed throughout the growing season. Flowers can be eaten as buds or when in full bloom, but the leaves have the best flavor when young and tender, so pick off newer growth for culinary uses. The flavor of the plant will actually get spicier as the day wears on, so pick early for milder tastes and later in the day for more kick.

The flowers are great for eating but also for decorating. The flowers wilt quickly, however, so cut the plants with long stems and store them in a glass of water, just like with any cut flowers. You can use them later in the day, or store them in water in the refrigerator for use the next day. The sooner you use them, though, the fresher they will look.

Your nasturtiums will taste best under the right growing conditions. If the plant gets stressed, the flavor will be off-putting. Fortunately, it’s easy to grow nasturtiums. They prefer full sun to a little bit of shade. Soil should be well drained and not overly fertile. Keep your plants adequately watered, especially when it is hot outside, to avoid the stress that changes the flavor of the leaves and blooms.

Eating nasturtiums is a great way to add a little exotic flavor to your ordinary dishes, and also a great way to make your flower beds do double duty. These flowers are gorgeous in beds, climbing trellises, and in containers, and they provide food for your vegetable drawer.

All Nasturtiums are edible, right?

I should be working, but Houzz is awesome for procrastinating, so: Edibles: there are a gazillion resources on edible gardening. “The Garden Primer” is hands down THE most useful book I own on the topic. There are also tons of great blogs on the topic, just pop some popcorn, get comfortable, and start Googling. As far as a greenhouse goes, you may need one if you decide to extend your growing season or do your own seed starts, but I recommend starting small and making sure you like gardening first. We did a HUGE garden our first year; now I have four 44-gallon stock tanks full of tomatoes and peppers and I get the rest from my CSA share. You learn what works for you. Deer: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Cutest vermin on the planet. The only thing that will keep them out without chemicals is a 7-8′ high deer fence. Most natural deer repellents (and chemical ones too) last for a while, till the deer habituate to them. Then you need to do something new. Chemicals: get over the idea of “manicured” and you’ll be fine. Except for the clippings that get deposited by my mulching mower, my yard gets no supplemental nutrition. Cut your grass at the tallest setting and it’ll crowd out weed seeds and be lush and thick in August when your neighbors, who cut it like a putting green and fertilize, have crunchy brown yards. Composting: easy as falling off a log. You’re getting stuff to rot, which is what was going to happen anyhow. Just remember to keep it simple: no meat, no dairy, minimal oil, and make sure that anything treated with herbicides or pesticides does NOT go in the compost. If you want to be all fancy, you can build my 3-bin compost bunker: http://www.revolutionarygardens.com/my-compost-bin-plans/ Fence: I’m amazed Cleveland is 6a, because I went to Cleveland in the winter – once. That was enough. This is one where I’ll definitely punt and say, “talk to your local nursery about a hedge plant.” I have no idea what does well there, Be sure you tell them you have deer. On the issue of natives… I give a big old “yeah, but…” when it comes to talk of them being easier. If you’re planting in the duff of a forest floor that’s been mostly undisturbed by the hand of Man (or Woman), sure. But keep in mind that the disturbed soils of suburbia, with fill and “topsoil” imported from god knows where, and none of the other plants that make up a native’s ecological family, is far from what a native plant in your region is programmed for. I support the native movement in theory, but in practice it can result in disappointment for folks trying to get woodland plants to thrive on a new construction lot. Your best resources for learning what does well in your area will include local independent garden centers (NOT the big box stores with regional plant buyers), botanical gardens, and the occasional garden tour/open garden days. If you’re looking for a DIY approach, look to garden clubs and the county extension’s Master Gardeners. If you want the help of a pro, use the “Find Local Pros” feature in the bar at the top. A consultation with a local landscape designer would be money well spent, as s/he can help you see what’s possible, and narrow it down to what’s right for you. Good luck!

Nasturtium: An Edible Flower With a Bite

As a long-time wild-foods enthusiast, I’ve collected edible plants in all sorts of unlikely spots. But, I’d never harvested food from a flower garden until a family friend introduced me to the attractive yellow orange blossoms and round leaves of the common nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus). After being assured (and reassured) that the plant was both edible and tasty, I chomped down on a long, succulent stem. The flavor was initially sweet, but as I continued to chew, it became hot and peppery like a radish. “Wow!” I thought, my eyes watering and my sinuses opened wide. “That’s good!”

Since then, I’ve developed a real liking for the tang of the nasturtium plant, and I use its leaves and flowers (both of which are milder than the stems) in a variety of dishes. Because they taste something like a spicy — as is the case when the plant has bolted — watercress (the botanical name for watercress is Nasturtium officinale), nasturtium leaves can be added to any type of green salad or even sprinkled into soups. Furthermore, when mixed with chives, both the leaves and blossoms blend beautifully into omelets or potato salad.

Grow Nasturtium

This Peruvian native was introduced into Europe back about 1686. During the late 1700s, the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus noted the similarity in appearance between the plant’s brilliant flowers and the gold (and often blood-stained) helmets — called tropaea — worn by ancient Roman warriors. Hence the Latin name Tropaeolum.

The popular annual flourishes in sandy soil (it’s often found growing wild along the Pacific coast of the U.S.) and prefers full sun and well-drained ground. Both kinds of nasturtium — there’s a climbing variety and another that looks like a ground cover — can become unruly if they’re left untouched, but most gardeners still enjoy cultivating the plant for its striking appearance and easy care. You’ll find nasturtium seed at your local nursery: It’s usually available in double-or single-blossom varieties and in mixed colors or single shades.

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In addition to its pleasing flavor, the nasturtium is a rich source of vitamin C and is reputed to contain an herbal equivalent of penicillin, which helps the body fight off infections. It’s an easy plant to cultivate, too, and is, in fact, often recommended as a good starter flower for beginning horticulturists.

Prepare Nasturtium to Eat

Tropaeolum cuisine, you’ll discover, can be surprisingly varied. The young seed pods, for example, are commonly pickled and used as substitutes for capers while the greenery and blossoms make attractive garnishes for any meal. Besides spicing up raw garden salads, nasturtium leaves can be stuffed like grape leaves, cooked and served as you would spinach (the dish goes well with a garlic butter seasoning) or chopped up and sprinkled into luncheon spreads.

For instance, here’s a simple-to-prepare cheese spread featuring the piquant flavor of the nasturtium’s leaves. You should make it just before serving, and be sure to have all the ingredients ready before you begin, since the foliage will turn bitter and the radishes will become soft if they stand very long.

First, wash a bunch of small radishes thoroughly and remove their tops. Cut a few of them into thin slices, and coarsely grate the rest. Quickly chop up a table-spoon of nasturtium leaves and blend them — along with the grated radishes and a teaspoon of lemon juice — into eight ounces of softened cream cheese. Slather the mixture on thin slices of rye bread or pumpernickel, and top each serving with a whole nasturtium leaf and a radish slice.
The colorful red and green flecks, peppery flavor, and crunchy texture of this uncommon sandwich spread will have your guests wondering (probably out loud) just what it is they’re eating. You can keep your secret, though. Simply tell them it’s a nutritious, easy food that you make whenever you thin your flower garden!

25 Apr How to Forage (and Eat!) Nasturtium Flowers

Posted at 06:10h in Bloom Alerts, Eat & Drink, Garden, How To, Street Flowers by Chantal Aida Gordon

Nasturtium has got to be one of the most underrated — and tastiest — plants of mid-spring. Maybe it’s just too easy to take its flowers for granted; their brilliant red, yellow and orange blossoms are beyond abundant this time of year, blanketing canyons, flashing traffic and bursting through fences alongside their distinctive, platter-shaped (peltate) leaves.

“It brings nature’s magic to the dinner table,” says Clark Loro about the edible Tropaeolum majus. “The petals are velvety soft and slightly peppery to the taste, but their main strength is in the vibrant color they add to a dish, and the elegant shape of the flower itself. Here you have instant romance, or the chance to get young people excited about a salad. It’s easy, free…what’s not to love?”

Clark was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. His stepfather is a chef and food writer, and used to host a public-access cooking show in Puerto Rico.

Want to add some excitement to your salad? For extra garnish points, you can leave the petals loosely connected after removing their stems and sepals.

Clark, who moved here to San Diego two months ago from North Carolina, is a chef, artist, video editor and singer. And — for one warm afternoon last week — he became our nasturtium foraging spirit guide.

C met him during a tipsy work lunch. Over margaritas we exchanged notes on edible flowers suspended in ice; Clark once made an entire salad bowl out of ice, with blossoms frozen inside. Needless to say, a friendship made in hunt-and-gather heaven was born that day. On a piece of tortilla paper, Clark drew a map leading to a forage-friendly patch of nasturtiums.

In an interesting twist, nasturtium flowers (Tropaeolum majus) are not closely related to the watercress plants of the Nasturtium genus — even though nasturtium flowers taste like watercress!

In Columbus, North Carolina, Clark worked as a chef at Giardini, which made meals fresh from its onsite garden; a favorite ingredient were the fresh figs he would soak in port.

When we all met up at the appointed intersection, we found ourselves in the middle of a residential neighborhood off a major street. But then it all changed when Clark led us down a gravelly alleyway. We were transported: Suddenly we were surrounded by waist-high grasses, rows of wild agave, prickly pear cactuses and a majestic, weeping pepper tree. And legions of flame-colored of nasturtium flowers.

“Foraging is a very primal rite for all living beings,” says Clark. “I relish in the freedom of foraging; sometimes you go out with a plan and sometimes you discover the unexpected. Start a garden and forage from the comfort of your own backyard if you can!”

We gathered a couple dozen nasturtiums by pinching them off at the stems. After taking them home, we included them in a salad according to Clark’s instructions — right down to the goat cheese balls covered in nasturtium petals.

We call this salad The Loro:

Ingredients (serves two)

– 10 nasturtium flowers, rinsed thoroughly in cold water

– goat cheese

– 6 oz. baby greens

– 2 tablespoons almonds

– balsamic vinaigrette

– raisins

– 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

1. Roll goat cheese into balls of about ½-inch diameter.

2. Peel away and discard nasturtium sepals, then gently pluck the petals.

3. Smooth petals onto goat cheese balls, arranging them into a floral shape.

5. Toss remaining ingredients

6. Salt and pepper to taste.

7. Garnish with petal-covered cheese balls.

8. Graze!

The Loro salad with balled goat cheese wrapped in nasturtium petals.

…or you can just toss the petals in among the greens.

Come visit our nasturtium community garden page and see nasturtium blooms captured throughout the world on Instagram. -TH

25 May 7 Flowers You Can Eat

Posted at 07:00h in Growing by kellogggarden

I have a dream of devoting a large part of my garden to edible flowers. With the amount of entertaining we do, the thought of adding this surprising ingredient to so many of my dishes and drinks just makes me swoon. From salads to cocktails, nothing speaks of sophistication and organic goodness as much as edible flowers do — so come on, buy some transplants or start some seeds! You’re about ready to kick things up, mama. (New to edible flower gardening? Check out our primer here!)

Nasturtiums. One of the easiest edible flowers to grow, nasturtiums thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. Their 5-petaled blooms come in shades of red, orange and yellow, and the rounded leaves have a white starburst pattern. While the flowers, leaves, and stems are all edible, the seeds can be toxic. Grow it from a nursery transplant or start yours from seed, and get ready to enjoy its slightly spicy flavor and dose of vitamin C. I love adding nasturtium flowers to salads and open-faced sandwiches, and pressing them into the sides of goat cheese balls for an unusual appetizer.

Pansies. Pansies are another easy-to-grow edible flower, preferring full to part sun, regular watering, and well-drained soil. The grassy, “green” and mild flavor of the charming pansy makes it an easy one to use in many recipes, from garnishing cocktails, desserts, and salads, to baking in shortbread cookies. High in vitamin C, tannins, carotenoids, and saponins (among other nutrients), pansies have long be heralded by herbalists for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Honeysuckle. There isn’t a southern kid alive who doesn’t remember summers picking honeysuckle flowers to savor the tiny bit of nectar hidden inside. This sprawling vine with buttery white flowers and stems that can grow up to 80 feet long — so while it does have invasive qualities, it sure is pretty and tasty! Full to part sun, regular water, and good drainage are preferred, but honeysuckle will almost grow anywhere, honestly. But here’s the thing – there are over 100 types of honeysuckle, and most have both edible and toxic parts, so to be on the safe side, avoid the berries and know what kind of honeysuckle you’re dealing with. Unsurprisingly, it has a sweet honey flavor and is prized for jelly-making and memory-making — an unbeatable combination.

Squash blossoms. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t tried this one yet, but by golly, this is going to be the year. You know the blossoms on your squash plant? You can eat them. But only pick the male blooms for eating, because the female blooms are the ones that become the fruit. Simply grow your squash plants like you normally would — full sun, regular water — and when they bloom, cut them off at the base. Bake them in frittatas, quarter them into salads, stuff with ricotta cheese and bake, or dip them in batter and fry. High in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, squash blossoms are the bomb.

Chive blossoms. Chives are valued in the kitchen for many recipes, but the chive flower is often overlooked. This small purple flower lends a delicate onion flavor to soups, cream sauces, potato and egg dishes, salads and goat cheese appetizers. High in vitamins A and C, it’s healthy as well as daintily pretty. Grow chives in full to part sun, with regular water and good soil drainage.

Hibiscus. Large, tropical hibiscus flowers come in hues of red, yellow, white, orange or peach, and grow up to 6” in diameter! So what can you do with these large lovelies? Way more than simply make tea! Try hibiscus flowers in punches or agua frescas, in dessert sauces, in marinades (mmmm in lamb and beef dishes), or even baked in a pavlova. Boasting impressive levels of vitamins A and C, grow hibiscus in a full sun location and give it consistent water with good drainage to add a little cranberry-citrus flavor to your next recipe.

Sunflowers. Sunflowers are so simple to grow that they remain a childhood favorite. Their large seeds sprout quickly, and sunny flowerheads appear in record time, provided they are planted in a sunny spot and given good drainage. The sunflower is the tastiest when it’s in the bud stage, and the taste is similar to an artichoke. Once it’s bloomed, the taste shifts to bittersweet. Steam or boil in water for a few minutes, then serve with melted butter — delicious! Oh, and you’ll get a dose of sapogenins, betaine, carotenoids, and sunflower acid.

About the Author:

Jenny Peterson is a landscape designer and urban farmer living in Austin, Texas. She comes from a family of gardeners and her gardens include drought-tolerant plants, herbs, veggies, and a wildflower pollinator garden. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenny specializes in gardens that heal from the inside out.

Nasturtium Flower Butter and Nasturtium Caper Recipes

The nasturtium plant (tropaeoleum majus) is one of the most useful plants in the garden. It attracts pollinating insects and acts as a sacrificial plant for brassicas by attracting caterpillars to its leaves. Its flowers, leaves, seed pods and seeds are prolific & edible and it readily self-seeds. The whole plant has a peppery, watercress-like taste: the flowers are mildest and the seed pods the strongest.

Eventually, the cold weather will kill off the plants in all but the warmest areas. There are a few ways to enjoy the colour and flavour of all parts of nasturtiums through the winter season and beyond.

Nasturtium Flower Butter

Use this stunning butter to flavour & colour steamed vegetables, mashes, poultry or fish.

Also try the butter on toast with strawberry jam for an unusual combination.

Ingredients

125g butter, slightly softened (I use unsalted and add salt to taste, salted will work just fine)
About 10 young nasturtium flowers without green stalk
3-6 nasturtium leaves without green stalk
Zest of an unwaxed lemon (optional, you can use orange or lime if you fancy)
Sea salt, to taste

Method

Check the nasturtium flowers & leaves for insects and wash if you feel necessary or are unsure about what’s been on the plant.

Chop the flowers and leaves fairly finely without reducing them to a puree. I think a very sharp knife is best for this. A processor will tend to mash them.

Start to cream the butter in a bowl with a fork, wooden spoon or similar.

Add the zest of your fruit if you are using this and beat until thoroughly combined.

Add the flowers and leaves and thoroughly mix into the butter.

Take a sheet of greaseproof paper or of cling film and lay the butter lengthways in a rough cylinder shape. Use the paper/film to help you roll the butter into a neat cylinder. Twist the ends of the paper. Chill until you are ready to use.

To preserve, pack into a freezer bag or cover in foil and pop in the freezer. Give it a little time to warm up and soften a bit before you use.

Nasturtium Capers

Use these just as you would capers: in salads, sauces, mayonnaise, pasta dishes and pickles

These are dead easy to make, the trick to success is in picking the right seed pods.

As the pod gets more mature, the pod acquires a reddish blush and the seed within begins to get harder. So you want young pods. Look for pods with just a little or no blush, that are smaller and which you can mark with a finger nail.

The pods tend to come in threes on the end of the stalk. Ideally collect them on a dry day.

There are two ways of ‘pickling’ them. One is to brine them briefly and then store in a flavoured vinegar. The other is to ferment them in a brine solution (like making sauerkraut) and then store in the fridge.

Ingredients

A brine solution made up with 50-60g of sea salt for each litre of water. 500ml will be fine for a small amount of seed pods. Pop your pods into a measuring jug to see how much volume of brine you may need.

Nasturtium Seed Pods

Choose one or two from the following or use your own favourite flavours:

Fennel seeds
Coriander seeds
Peppercorns
Garlic
Chillies
Tarragon
Fresh coriander
Thyme
Rosemary
Bay leaves
For the vinegar version, about 200ml of white wine or cider vinegar for every 100g of seed pods

Method

Split the seed pod threes into singles and wash & dry them if they need it.

Immerse in the brine solution in a bowl. Use a plate or bowl to keep them under the liquid.

For the fermented version

Add what flavour herbs or spices you fancy.

Cover with a tea towel of piece of muslin to keep insects out but allow the air in. Air is important for the fermentation to work, so don’t try to so this is a narrow necked jar. Leave in a warmish place (about 20°C) for about 10 days. Give a stir each day and start tasting the seed pods after about 5 days. If any scum or mould appears on the surface of the brine, just scrape off – it’s not harmful to the seed pods.

Once the seed pods are as tender as you like and tasting good, then pop the seed pods, flavourings and enough brine to cover into a sterilised jar, pop on a lid and keep in the fridge. They are ready to use immediately.

For the vinegar preserved version

Cover the brine solution to keep insects out and leave for about 24 hours or so.

Drain the nasturtiums and dry to eliminate as much moisture as possible which will dilute the vinegar.

Place the seed pods in a sterilised jar or jars leaving about 1cm headspace.

Tuck in the one or two of the flavouring ingredients and cover with the vinegar. Put on vinegar proof lids. Allow to mature for a few weeks before using. Store in a cool, dark place.

Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a permaculture smallholding and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. He is currently writing The Permaculture Kitchen, a book of seasonal, local, home-grown delicious recipes for Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine.

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