My favorite edible garden plant is the nasturtium. I have grown it in the past mostly for how it looks. The trailing vines and bright, cheerful flowers look great in hanging containers and raised beds. Nasturtium does double duty, as a gorgeous flower and a completely edible plant.
I first grew nasturtium in high school. I had gotten a big book of herbs for Christmas the prior year and was fascinated by the picture of a nasturtium on the cover. I hadn’t fully realized until then that flowers could be edible. I was hooked, although my first attempt at growing this beauty wasn’t completely successful. I still had a lot to learn about gardening.
As an adult I have discovered that nasturtium is almost embarrassingly easy to grow. Nasturtium belongs to a family of tropical natives that grow as annuals in my Midwest garden. They like full sun but will tolerate poor soil as long as it drains well.
You can find nasturtium in bushy form or trailing. I prefer the latter. The leaves are umbrella-like and the flowers funnel-shaped and colored bright orange, red, or yellow.
There is no question that nasturtium is a beautiful addition to any garden. When I have grown this plant in my current garden, I let the vines grow up the columns supporting my back patio awning. They attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds too.
This plant is so attractive, it’s a little bit hard to eat but definitely worth trying. Every part of nasturtium is edible and has a peppery flavor that isn’t too strong. Here are some of the ways I have used nasturtium in the kitchen:
- Most often, I just pluck a few leaves and flowers and throw them raw into a salad to spice it up.
- I added a few leaves to a cooked spinach dish for extra flavor.
- During my smoothie phase, I used the leaves in green recipes along with other leafy vegetables.
- I made a tasty pasta salad with chopped nasturtium leaves. I used flowers to decorate the top of the salad.
- The flowers are great as decoration for a lot of dishes. I never hesitated to pluck a few to impress guests with edible garnishes.
One thing I never tried, but may do in the future, is making nasturtium capers. The seeds, like the rest of the plant, are edible. A simple pickle of the seeds supposedly makes a substitute for capers, a food I love. One day I may try it, but the flowers rarely make it to the seed stage before being plucked and used in the kitchen.