Monday, September 28, 2009

Nasturtium



Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) may be my favorite flower. Today, anyway. Sort of like children, every one is the favorite! But don't nasturtiums have a sunny, cheerful look about them? The colors are so bright and the leaves are pretty, especially the variegated ones of T. 'Alaska.' They are very easy to grow and they are edible!

Adding to their charm—lines on the petals called nectar guides (click to enlarge photo). They show bees to the nectar source down inside the flower—and bees do love these flowers! They bumble around down in that rounded bowl the petals form drinking nectar and flinging pollen all over themselves. They fly off to other flowers with some of it, and then, well, you know the story. Seeds, more flowers...it's one of nature's coolest win - wins.

Nasturtium is grown as an annual in NC, but it is a tender perennial. Charlotte is not the best climate for nasturtiums, they like the cool mountains better. But they do well in the dappled sunlight of my yard because it protects them from the worst of the heat. When fall comes along, they really perk up.

In one of Peter Loewer's books, I read that you can plant seeds in a pot this time of year and grow them in a sunny windowsill over the winter. A climbing/trailing type would be especially nice, wouldn't it?

Both the flowers and the leaves of nasturtium are edible. Sometimes the seeds are pickled and used like capers, but some say the seeds contain too much oxalic acid to be safely eaten, so you might want to go a little easy on those if you try them at all.

The following recipe uses nasturtium flowers, chopped. I think it's prettier to chop the leaves and leave the flowers whole for garnish on top of the cream cheese layer. The taste of leaves and flowers is almost the same except that the flowers have a bit of honey/perfumy taste to them.

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Nasturtium Tea Sandwiches
(adapted from The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery by Leona Woodring Smith)

1 three-ounce package cream cheese
1 tablespoon mayonaise
1 tablespoon chopped nasturtium leaf
2 chopped nasturtium flowers, and several whole ones for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Cream together all the ingredients until light and fluffy. Spread generously on thinly sliced pumpernickle or country white bread with crusts removed. Cut each piece into three rectangles and garnish tops with whole nasturtiums. Make immediately before serving because the filling can become bitter if allowed to stand.

Tiny bits of grated carrot or onion can be added to the cream cheese as well, if you like. Horseradish combines well with nasturtium and adds heat to this spread. Besides spreading on bread, try piping into a blossom.
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Add nasturtium to omelets and egg or shrimp salad, or throw the blossoms into a baby greens salad. One former United States president added chopped nasturtium to his vegetable soup. Many people have compared it to watercress, to which it is related. I think it's a bit cabbagey in flavor.

In the garden, or in the kitchen, you'll love having an abundance of nasturtiums!



Updated: 3 March 2015

2 comments:

  1. I grew climbing nasturtiums one year and now can't get rid of them. In fact, I just noticed this morning that there are some growing in my strawberry patch. I'll teach them, though. I'll eat them, as you suggest!

    Robin

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  2. I love Nasturtiums also... I never thought of growing them indoors during the winter, but I'm going to try that! Thanks for including the recipes also :)

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