Nasturtium - (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtium flowers
Nasturtiums are one of my favorite flowers because of their ease, versatility and flavor, and of course their beauty. These little wonders require very little attention to thrive in your garden. Just give them some soil, water and room to grow and they'll be happy campers. Both nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible as long as you don't use pesticides. They give a peppery punch similar to watercress in salads and pasta dishes, and the flowers add a hit of color and flavor. Nasturtium seeds are edible as well when they are young and green and have been likened to capers when pickled. They even offer their fare share of Vitamin C.

Here's what you need to get growing:

Nasturtium seeds - there are many varieties including climbing, variegated leaves and dwarf.  Colors range from a vanilla white to fiery red and even multi-colored. We have listed resources for the seeds below.

Soil - Nasturtiums grow best in semi-neglected areas. If you feed them too much they will grow huge and green but you won't get many flowers. Just make sure it's well drained as they don't like their feet to wet.

A garden area or large pot to grow them in. Dwarf varieties make great edging plants and the climbing varieties are lovely on a back fence in the garden or in pots with trellises. The cascading varieties are wonderful for hanging baskets.

To get a faster sprout soak your seeds (they are large and pretty hard) in some warm water overnight and then place directly in the garden or pots where you want to grow them. Nasturtiums are annuals so plant the seeds in spring when the danger of frost has passed. Once they are established, nasturtiums will continue to spread and bloom until the first frost, with very little work or water from you. They will grow in partial shade but you will get mostly foliage as they don't flower as well in those conditions as they do in their preferred full sun location.

Now that you've got them, what can you do with them? Aside from beautifying your garden, you can cut many varieties for use in fresh floral arrangements. As mentioned they are also a great addition in the kitchen. Try some of the following recipes and be daring - make a few up of your own! Just looking at nasturtiums can make you smile - eating them might even make you giggle.

Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers

Mix 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 2 Tablespoons finely minced chives or other herbs of your choice. Stuff the mixture into nasturtium flowers and place on a tray that has been lined with nasturtium leaves. Serve at room temperature.

Nasturtium Vinegar

1 cup nasturtium leaves, flowers, and buds

1 pint champagne or white wine vinegar

Place the ingredients in a clean clear glass jar or bottle. Tightly seal. Let sit for at least 3 weeks before using. Place a new nasturtium in the finished bottle for decoration, but you should make sure the vinegar always covers the flowers or they will mold. Makes 1 pint vinegar to use in salads, sauces and flavoring in other dishes.

Nasturtium Lemon Butter

This lovely butter has a mild lemon/pepper flavor and a colorful appearance. It is wonderful on fish, chicken and vegetables. This is also great on those small party breads, pumpernickel especially.

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened

1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (according to taste)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium blossoms

Mix all of the ingredients well until smooth and well blended. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Makes 3/4 cup flavored butter.

Pickled Nasturtium Seeds

Use green nasturtium seeds, and in picking retain a short length of stem on each. Lay the seeds in cold salted water for two days (two tablespoons salt to one quart water), then place them in cold water for another day. Drain well and place the seeds in a glass jar, cover with vinegar heated to the boiling point, and close the jar tightly. In a few days the seeds will be ready to use. They are an excellent substitute for capers

Seed Sources:

Thompson & Morgan - Offers climbing, dwarf, double and other varieties.

Renee's Garden - Nasturtiums and a multitude of other flower and herb seeds.

Sheherd's Garden Seed - A unique variety of nasturtium seeds and more.