2 min read * by Dev Rivers
Familiar with the bright and cheerful nasturtium? Did you know the whole plant is edible? Growing edible flowers is one of my favorite ways to elevate the look of my garden design while being able to add more flavor, color and nutrients to my garden-inspired meals.
If you are growing a garden, you are likely familiar with the bright, cheerful colors of nasturtium flowers. But, did you know that the whole plant is actually edible?!?!
If you are not familiar with nasturtiums- not to worry. I am going to explore a few reasons why this plant is a great addition to any culinary garden and how you can grow it for your own use.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is a fast growing, easy going annual that adds splashes of bright color to your garden design and is incredibly versatile.
This low-maintenance plant is not particularly fussy about soil or light conditions, so it is a great place to start with growing edible flowers in your kitchen garden.
It reseeds itself easily. So, once you establish a plant, it is likely that it will keep coming back in your garden year after year without much effort from you.
The plant has edible leaves, flowers and seeds that are packed with nutritious health benefits. The flavor is a bit spicy, similar to radish or watercress (its cousin). Nasturtiums can be utilized in the garden and kitchen in a variety of ways.
In the garden, nasturtiums work as an aphid trap, grow beautifully as a climber or cascading from hanging baskets and benefit the soil microbes as a mulch. Nasturtium flowers not only trap and repel garden pests like aphids and squash bugs, they also attract beneficial insects and pollinators improving the biodiversity and resilience of your garden. Nasturtiums make great companion plants for things such as kale, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins.
Nasturtium seeds can be started directly in the ground after the last frost in spring. Plant each seed about 2.5cm (1 in.) deep and space plants 25-30cm (10-12 in.) apart. You will soon notice the distinctive lily pad-like leaves emerge and the plant will bloom from early summer all the way through until frost arrives in winter.
Medicinally, the garden nasturtium has been found in clinical trials to be effective against bladder and urinary tract infections, sinus inflammation and bronchitis and is also an effective aid in the formation of new blood cells and helps those with anaemia. The leaves of the plant are rich in vitamin C and iron and the flowers are a good source of B vitamins.
You can use your imagination and let your taste buds guide you, as you find ways to incorporate this plant in the kitchen. Here are some suggestions. You can add the flowers to salads or fresh rolls or use them to decorate savory baked goods and balance sweetness. Nasturtium leaves can be made into a pesto by processing them in a blender with olive oil, salt, pepper, pine nuts (or walnuts) and parmesan to your liking. This makes for a zingy and nutritious pesto. Chopped leaves can be added to soups and salads or be served as a garnish over fish or egg dishes. For eating, the seeds should be harvested while young and green. You can pickle or ferment them to make a wonderful homemade “caper” substitute. These nasturtium “capers” pair well with two of my loves: wild Alaska salmon and Swiss Raclette. I would love to know how you use your nasturtiums! Let us know in the Foodies in Switzerland Facebook group.
Nasturtium Leaf & Coconut Soup
3 cups of nasturtium leaves
3 cloves of garlic
400-500mL of coconut milk
250mL vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
a bit of olive oil or coconut oil
Heat olive oil/coconut oil in a saucepan on the stove over low heat.
Add garlic and cook at low temperature until fragrant.
Add nasturtium leaves and cook until fully wilted, stirring constantly.
Add coconut milk and vegetable stock and puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and process until smooth.
Return the pan to the stove and heat the soup through. Garnish with small leaves and flowers. Serve and enjoy your homegrown foodie meal!
If you make this soup, let us know in the Foodies in Switzerland group: #edibleLandscapes.
Columnist, foodie, Permaculture Consultant
Dev Rivers is a certified kitchen garden & edible landscape consultant & the owner of Invincible Gardens.
She helps city & suburban families to connect with nature & grow their own food with more joy & less work using sustainable, organic gardening principles.
Her mission is to teach aspiring gardeners how to live abundantly from edible landscapes that heal our planet, fill the pantry & nourish the soul.
Dev is creating the EdibleLandscapes column for EdibleSwitzerland.