Nasturtium has many varieties. It has round flat leaves with red, yellow or orange trumpet like flowers which appear from midsummer to midautumn.
Both the leaves and flower buds have a slightly peppery flavor reminiscent of Watercress and are used to add bite to salads and sandwiches as well. Whole flowers make a stunningly beautiful and exotic garnish. The flowers may also be chopped and used to flavor butters, cream cheese and vinegar.
The unripe seed pods can be harvested and pickled with hot vinegar, to produce a condiment and garnish, sometimes used in place of capers, although the taste is strongly peppery.
There is also a species found in the Andes which is grown as a vegetable tuber crop.
Cultivation of Nasturtium
Site: The soil shouldn't be too rich because you will get more leaves than flowers. The soil can even be slightly sandy and they will thrive. You can use barrel planters, window boxes or porch boxes too
Propagation: Nasturtiums grow quickly from seed. Space your seeds 8-12 inches apart in the ground, and a little closer in containers. In zones with freezing temperatures wait until after the frost, and in the mild southern climates they can even be planted in the fall for "winter" blooming.
Growing: To grow nasturtiums, you must keep them watered during the entire growing season, especially if they are in containers. They love full sun, but they don't do well in drought-like, dry conditions. As long as you keep them watered and give them room for the air to circulate they create terrific blooms. If you see aphids, spray them with a safe soap, alcohol and water mixture.
Harvesting: Pick the blooms freely once they start coming, and you will have many more during the summer.
Culinary Uses: The entire Nasturtium plant is edible. This peppery plant is perfect for salads, herb vinegars, appetizers and garnishes. Mix assorted greens with nasturtium blooms and top with your favorite salad dressing. Bake a batch of cupcakes, frost with a cream cheese frosting and top with a single nasturtium bloom for a special treat.
Nasturtium vinegar is fantastic too. Add several blossoms and some leaves to a jar with a clove of garlic. Fill with vinegar and allow to sit for four to five weeks. It adds a nice peppery addition to any herb vinegar.
Both the leaves and the flowers have a cress like flavor and add a bit to salads and sandwiches. The young seeds have a stronger flavor and are sometimes used used chopped as a substitute for horseradish in tartar sauce.