Species: Tropaeolum majus
Common Names: Common Nasturtium, Garden Nasturtium, Indian Cress
It is a herbaceous annual plant with trailing stems growing to 1 meter long. Leaves are large, circular with distinct veins, 3 to 15 cm in diameter, flowers are 3-6 cm diameter, with five petal; and a long nectar spur at the rear. They vary from yellow to red, often darker at the base of the petals.
The fruit is 2 cm broad, three-segmented, each segment with a single large seed. Native to South America, today it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental and medical plant, in some area is even considered invasive due to its facility to spread and reproduce.
Nasturtium plants prefer poor, dry soils and do well in both sun or semi-shade, so plant nasturtiums where other flowers and vegetables would be unsuccessful. Can be trained to grow vertically or cascade down from hanging baskets and other containers.
Cutting off the faded flowers will prolong blooming. If you’re growing nasturtium in containers, they may need to be trimmed back occasionally over the growing season. If you don’t pick all the flowers, they will self-seed profusely and provide you with loads of free new plants
NASTURTIUM IN THE KITCHEN
All part of the plant are edible; in the world of edible annual flowers, Nasturtiums are one of the tastiest and easiest to grow. For salads, harvest nasturtium flower buds, flowers, and young leaves in the cool of the morning when flowers have just opened. Gently wash and dry the flowers and leaves and use immediately when possible, otherwise they will last a couple of days in the refrigerator. Flowers, with their mild peppery taste are great for adding character and color to any dishes.
You can also stir-fries nasturtium leaves and flowers, make a pesto for your pasta dishes or bruschetta, steam and cook as would with other green leaves vegetable. The unripe green seed pods are spicy and can be eaten raw or pickled in vinegar or salt water to be used as substitute to capers. The dried seeds can be ground down to use as a pepper or pressed to extract their oil.
Nasturtium is a good source of immunity-boosting vitamin C and may be used as a natural remedy for helping the body overcome and prevent the common cold and flu. This plant has many herbal medicinal uses given its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic qualities. In South America it is used as a disinfectant, expectorant and wound healer. All parts of the plant seem to have strong antibiotic and antimicrobial properties, promoting the formation of red blood cells.
Nasturtiums are not only beautiful and edible, they have health benefits as well. The leaves are high in vitamin C and also have strong anti-bacterial and anti-tumoral properties.