Nasturtiums are beneficial and attractive flowering plants that deserve a space in every garden. Nasturtium is the common name for Tropaeolum – the only genus in the plant family Tropaeolaceae. These flowers gained their common name because of their similarity to watercress (Nasturtium officinale).
There are plenty of reasons to grow nasturtiums in your garden – they are incredibly useful in the garden itself and when harvested for culinary use.
Cutting off finished or faded flowers will encourage the plant to keep blooming for longer throughout the growing season; however, you may wish to harvest the flowers (and leaves) for a range of culinary uses rather than allowing them to fade. Nasturtiums are attractive plants that can bloom abundantly. They can bring color and visual appeal to your garden. But there are also several practical reasons why growing these flowers is a good idea. Nasturtiums will attract a range of beneficial insects to your garden – including bees and other pollinators. Adding nasturtiums in your outside space is one way to help honeybees and other bee species under threat due to climate change and human activity.
We need bees for our very survival on this planet. So, it is vitally important that we all do our part to protect and aid them as gardeners and growers as gardeners and growers. Of course, having pollinators in your garden will also help make sure you get an excellent fruit harvest each year if you grow your own food. Nasturtiums are a brilliant companion plant in the vegetable garden.
Many people are surprised to learn that nasturtiums are edible. These plants not only aid other plants in your kitchen garden, but they can also be an incredibly useful edible crop in their own right. As an edible crop, these plants can justify their place in your kitchen garden. The flowers, leaves, and flower buds can all be used in a wide range of recipes. One of the easiest and most obvious ways to eat nasturtium flowers and leaves, which have a peppery, watercress-like taste, is in salads. Their peppery bite is perfect when paired with milder lettuce or other leaves, and you can even enliven your salad with a nasturtium vinaigrette. (This can be made, if you wish, with a nasturtium vinegar – like the one described below.)
Both flowers and leaves can be used to infuse vinegars. This example uses rice vinegar as the base, though you could also consider using apple cider vinegar for this purpose.
Nasturtium & Black Pepper Vinaigrette
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup chopped nasturtium tender leaves (no stems) and blooms
1 to 2 tablespoons snipped or chopped fresh chives
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon
1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or a little more to taste
In a deep, medium, non-reactive bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, nasturtiums, chives, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the salt is completely dissolved. Gradually whisk in the oil until all is incorporated; use 7 tablespoons for a slightly milder dressing. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Let the vinaigrette stand a few minutes at room temperature before serving to allow the flavors to mingle. Whisk, stir vigorously, or put in a cruet or jar and shake well to blend before adding to whatever greens, vegetables, and accenting nasturtiums you desire. Add the dressing, toss, and serve immediately or serve individual salad plates and allow diners to drizzle on dressing to taste. Makes 2/3 cup vinaigrette.
Content & Photo Credit: Edible Sarasota & Rural Sprout