Peak Season: Early summer through fall in cooler areas, fall through spring in milder climates.
The nasturtium is a versatile plant both for looks and food; leaves and blooms are edible. They grow fast and are easy, doing best with a little neglect, but do like their water. They can be used as edging (dwarf types: Alaska and Jewel Series, ‘Peach Melba”), in hanging containers or spilling over walls. There are also climbing varieties (‘Canary Creeper’). The abundant, colorful blooms contain nectar and have a mild, horseradish favor. The bloom has a distinct “spout” coming off the back of the bloom, known as a nectar tube. The leaves can be used to add a peppery flavor to fresh salads. The seeds are also edible when young and green and have been likened to capers when pickled.
Tropaeolum majus, the scientific name for nasturtium, comes from the Greek word meaning “to twine”, which is descriptive of some of the 50 species in this genus, and are related to the watercress family. Nasturtium was first found growing in Mexico and Peru where it was used instead of watercress to flavor foods. It was brought to Europe in the 16th century and considered a symbol of conquest and victory in battle. Victorian women later used it to ward off bad smells.
Nasturtium is one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed and this is how you will usually find them. The best flowering will be in full sun, but they will tolerate partial s hade. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden beginning in late May for cool areas or late summer in warmer areas. Nasturtiums do not fare well when transplanted so sow them directly in the soil where you want them to grow.
Nasturtiums are not choosy about their soil, but, given the choice, do prefer a light, sandy soil. Don’t spoil them with rich, fertile soil and fertilizers as this will only result in lush foliage and few blooms. They are also good to reseed themselves year after year. Nasturtiums are prone to aphids, but a strong blast of water from the hose will usually keep them under control. The more air circulation around the plant, the less likely the plant will have a problem with pests.
Recipe of the Month: Nasturtium Pesto