How to Grow & Use Nasturtiums

Have you heard the saying: “Be nasty to nasturtiums“?  There seems to be some truth to this, because these low-maintenance carefree herbs thrive in a poor, dry soil without a lot of water – or work.  This makes nasturtiums a plant of choice for many thrifty and busy gardeners!

 

How to Grow and Use Nasturtiums - Edible Flowers with Multiple Uses

How to Grow and Use Nasturtiums – Edible Flowers with Multiple Uses

Tips for Growing Nasturtiums

  • Sow to a depth of twice the length of the seed (about 1.5cm or 1/2 an inch) as they need darkness to germinate.

 

Nasturtium seeds germinating in pots

Nasturtium seeds germinating in pots

 

  • Keep moist so the seeds germinate. Once established, you’ll likely find they don’t require much water. Perfect for those with water restrictions or limited rainfall.
  • They can take drought and heat although can suffer sunburn and heat stress in extremely hot weather. If you live in a climate where you get scorching summers, try planting in a pot and moving to a more protected spot or plant where they’ll get a bit of protective shade.
  • Nasturtiums tend not to tolerate frost. From my observations, they don’t like strong winds either. If they get a bit ratty looking, just prune them back and use the leaves and vines as mulch. They will quickly reshoot new growth!

 

Nasturtium seed soaked overnight to soften the outer seed coating and aid germination

Nasturtium seed soaked overnight to soften the outer seed coating and aid germination

 

  • Grow very well in poor, dry soils so plant nasturtiums where other flowers and vegetables would be unsuccessful.
  • Aren’t fussy about sun or semi-shade – do well in both. However, in the full heat of summer, nasturtiums can suffer heat stress. Adding shade protection or moving pots to a filtered light position will keep them happy.

 

If you want an abundance of flowers, they prefer a dry soil with some humus content but if you want to grow them for their luxuriant leaves plant them in nutrient rich soil!

If you want an abundance of flowers, they prefer a dry soil with some humus content but if you want to grow them for their luxuriant leaves plant them in nutrient rich soil!

 

  • If you don’t pick all the flowers, they will self-seed profusely and provide you with loads of free plants.
  • Require very little care – if you have sufficient rainfall in the warmer months, you may not have to water at all.

 

Encourage more nasturtium flowers to grow and a more compact shape by pinching out the runners from time to time.

Encourage more flowers to grow and a more compact shape by pinching out the runners from time to time.

 


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Culinary & Medicinal Uses for Nasturtiums


Ways to use the different parts of the Nasturtium plant

(Leaves, Flowers, Buds & Seeds) in your Kitchen

Add a few cheerful blossoms to a vase. Nibble on these edible flowers while they brighten up your kitchen bench.

Add a few cheerful blossoms to a vase. Nibble on these edible flowers while they brighten up your kitchen bench.


1. Nasturtium Leaves

The most familiar and commonly used part of the plant.

 

The tender nasturtium leaves have a slight peppery bite to them and are quite similar to watercress in flavour. I’ve found leaves store well in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

The tender leaves have a slight peppery bite to them and are quite similar to watercress in flavour. I’ve found leaves store well in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

 

  • Nasturtiums are best when picked young and tender, in cool weather. The older the leaves are, the spicier the flavour.

 

Nasturtiums are a tasty addition to all kinds of salads. You can slice leaves into strips. Their peppery flavour makes them an excellent rocket substitute.

Nasturtiums are a tasty addition to all kinds of salads. You can slice leaves into strips. Their peppery flavour makes them an excellent rocket substitute.

 

  • Leaves can be stuffed with tuna or chicken salad, then rolled up as an entrée or snack.
  • Use in risottos, soups, juices, casseroles, pesto and rice dishes.

 

Get creative with nasturtiums and make your own sandwich art!

Get creative with nasturtiums and make your own sandwich art!

 

  • Stuff and bake them as you would grape leaves. Try a mixture of rice, currants, nuts and savoury spices like cinnamon, mint and cloves.
  • Make vinegar using the leaves, buds and blossoms and a bottle of white wine or champagne vinegar.
  • Try them stir fried, wilted with other greens or mince and add to chilled summer soups.
  • Chop or slice leaves into small pieces and use them instead of green onions or garlic.

 

Use as a decorative base on a plate for serving appetizers (and a few flowers on the side as a garnish).

Use as a decorative base on a plate for serving appetizers (and a few flowers on the side as a garnish).

 

  • Grind or mince the chopped leaves with salt, chillies and garlic until they form a paste. Use to flavour stir fries or other dishes.
  • Nasturtiums are not only beautiful and edible, they have health benefits as well. The leaves are high in vitamin C and also have strong anti-bacterial and anti-tumor properties. Tea made from the leaves is a common preventative for colds and flu.
  • Grinding the leaves in water and straining is an easy way to make an all-natural disinfectant wash for minor cuts and scrapes.

Tip: If leaves and flowers are chopped up finely and added to other greens and vegetables, the warmth in their flavour is not as noticeable.

 


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2. Nasturtium Flowers

Pick blossoms the same day as using, as close as possible to serving time. Store in the refrigerator if eating or a vase to enjoy their beauty and fragrance. Nasturtium cut flowers last several days in a vase and make a pretty arrangement with other herb flowers. I often pick them with flowering edibles like the red pineapple sage blooms, yellow mustard, white rocket flowers and pretty pink geraniums.

 

Organically grown flowers don't harm you with any nasty chemicals when you inhale their fragrance.

Organically grown flowers don’t harm you with any nasty chemicals when you inhale their fragrance.

 

  • Stuff fresh blossoms with a blend of soft cheese (like goat, ricotta or cottage cheese) and fresh herbs, salmon or minced dried fruits.
  • Mince the blossoms, add a little lemon peel and blend into fresh butter.

 

Nasturtium blossom vinegar - Add flowers & a few garlic cloves to white wine vinegar and allow the flavours to infuse for 6-8 weeks. A delicious addition to dressings.

Nasturtium blossom vinegar – Add flowers & a few garlic cloves to white wine vinegar and allow the flavours to infuse for 6-8 weeks. A delicious addition to dressings.

 

  • Use the zesty-tasting flower instead of mustard in sandwiches.
  • Make nasturtium oil by blending your choice of oil with a handful of blossoms and a clove of garlic. Strain before using.

 

Try floating the edible colourful nasturtium flowers in your punch bowl or garnish a fruit salad.

Try floating the edible colourful nasturtium flowers in your punch bowl or garnish a fruit salad.

 

3. Nasturtium Buds

Make sure the buds are fully closed and leave a bit of the stem attached when picking and use fresh just as you would the leaves to add a peppery zip to dishes and salads.

  • Wash, drain and cover with boiling vinegar in a covered jar for pickled buds that taste just like capers.
  • Add a fresh kick to salads like tabbouleh, potato and pasta salads.

 

Nasturtium buds can be washed and added to salads or desserts. They have a sweet nectar inside.

Nasturtium buds can be washed and added to salads or desserts. They have a sweet nectar inside.

 


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4. Nasturtium Seeds

Easy ways to use nasturtiums to benefit the health of your chickens

Easy ways to use nasturtiums to benefit the health of your chickens

Nasturtium seeds can be harvested green, as soon as the flowers have fallen off (immature for eating). Or harvest when mature (brown) for seed saving after they have fallen from the plant.

 

Nasturtium seeds - freshly picked green seeds and brown dried seeds ready to sow, save or eat.

Nasturtium seeds – freshly picked green seeds and brown dried seeds ready to sow, save or eat.

 

  • Nasturtium Pepper – MYO Seasoning! Lightly roast the mature brown dried seeds on an oven tray and then grind in your pepper grinder (or mortar & pestle). This is such an easy way to make your own home grown pepper! Use whole in place of peppercorns or crushed instead of pepper to season dishes and marinades.
  • Nasturtium Capers – Collect flower buds while they are still tight heads.  Harvest the unripe green seeds before they harden and fall to the ground.

 

Nasturtium seeds have a similar taste and texture to capers so make a great substitute. They have a nutty taste and are crunchy addition to salads.

Nasturtium seeds have a similar taste and texture to capers so make a great substitute. They have a nutty taste and are crunchy addition to salads.

 

  • They have a similar taste and texture to capers so make a great substitute. Wash and add buds and seed pods to a clean glass bottle.  Add enough vinegar to cover and your pickled capers will be ready to eat in just three days!

 

Use as a condiment with savoury dishes and fish. Keeps well for at least a year out of the fridge.

Use as a condiment with savoury dishes and fish. Keeps well for at least a year out of the fridge.

 

Tip: Prick the seeds with a fork before adding the vinegar. This allows the flavour of the hot vinegar to permeate the density of the seeds and helps to preserve them.

 

Nasturtium Health Benefits

Check out some of the health benefits of nasturtiums in this video:

 

Nasturtium Recipes

Nasturtium Butter: Chop up a good handful of nasturtium flowers and mix with softened butter. Depending on what flavours you like, try adding pepper, garlic, or onions. Chill in a chocolate mold or small glass serving dish. Great with fresh bread with its pretty confetti-like colours.

 

Nasturtium Mayonnaise: A delicious accompaniment to fish. Just add chopped nasturtium flowers and/or leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice and some crushed garlic to your mayonnaise for a tasty alternative.

Eat Your Colours Salad: Dice and mix the following together:

Red: 1 1/4 cups (or 1/2 pint) cherry tomatoes sliced in half; Orange: 1 large carrot and 1 orange capsicum (sweet pepper) diced; Yellow: 1 chopped mango; Green: 1 sliced cucumber, unpeeled and 1/4 honey dew melon chopped; Blue: handful of common blue borage flowers; Purple: 1/4 diced purple salad onion.

 

Try making this rainbow salad with nasturtiums – almost looks too pretty to eat! Optional: Handful of salted pumpkin seeds or other nuts, mint sprig and orange nasturtium flower to decorate and eat! Add a dressing of your choice, or serve with vanilla yogurt or cottage cheese. (Recipe from Colleen Croppe)

Try making this rainbow salad with nasturtiums – almost looks too pretty to eat! Optional: Handful of salted pumpkin seeds or other nuts, mint sprig and orange nasturtium flower to decorate and eat! Add a dressing of your choice, or serve with vanilla yogurt or cottage cheese. (Recipe from Colleen Croppe)

 

Nasturtium Pesto: Learn how to make your own in this video.

 

Nasturtium Capers: Learn how to pickle the seeds to make capers in this video.

“Grow some in a hanging basket, up a trellis or arbor, a ground cover under a tree, in your vegie patch, a windowbox or brighten up a rock garden or difficult area.  They will bring you joy, good health, a rainbow of colour and solve many problems.” – Isabell Shipard

 

Well, I hope you’re learning to love these incredible herbs like I am!  There are even more uses for nasturtiums including using them as a pest strategy for your garden – more about this in a future post!  If you are already growing nasturtiums, how do you use them?  I’d love you to share your experiences and find out if this information is useful to you.

 

Tropaeolum Majus - learn to love them!

Tropaeolum Majus – learn to love them!

 

Interested to learn more about Nasturtiums? You may like 20 Reasons to Grow this Amazing Herb or grab yourself a copy of Isabell Shipard’s herb book or DVD course for a wealth of health giving information on edible herbs for your garden.  Or check out the How to Grow articles for more inspiration.

 

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

 

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

23 Comments

  1. […] nutrient accumulators like nasturtiums, comfrey, yarrow, sorrel, dandelion and watercress. These plants will add health to your garden by […]

    • Barbara Grummels October 12, 2016 at 8:33 am - Reply

      I’ve collected green seed from a friend and I’m hoping to plant asap (it’s Springtime in Australia) – do I have to dry out the nasturtium seeds before planting? If so is there a way to speed this up? thanks

      • Anne Gibson October 12, 2016 at 10:37 am - Reply

        Hi Barbara

        The green seeds if left to fall below nasturtium plants onto the soil in the garden will dry out, turn brown and wrinkly on their own. Once in this dried state, they can be stored in a cool, dry place and sown as needed. Or if left in the garden, they will self sow and germinate when there is enough moisture or rain.

        Ideally, you should dry them out before planting as they can develop mould or rot. Just put the nasturtium seeds in one layer on a shallow tray and put in the sun or in a warm dry place for a few days. A food dehydrator or a very slow oven for a short time also works.

        Before sowing, soak for a couple of hours in liquid seaweed to boost germination. I recommend you sow nasturtium seeds where you want them to grow rather than transplanting. They are real fusspots when it comes to moving house! I have great success sowing in the new moon cycle for above ground plants. I use a Moon Calendar monthly to follow when the soil moisture is rising and in my favour. This has a big influence over the rate of germination as seeds swell more quickly and I get healthier plants that way.

        I also make my own DIY seed raising mix that has special ingredients in it to boost seed germination.

        You can also follow my tutorial on sowing seeds which may give you some tips. Hope this helps! Happy gardening. Anne

        • Barbara Grummels October 13, 2016 at 8:37 am - Reply

          Thanks so much Anne, I’ll try the oven as I’m keen to get going..

  2. caroline cumming December 22, 2013 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Also, we have some growing up the very end of our driveway by a neighbours fence – what is the procedure for transplanting these to the garden – can they handle that?

    • The Micro Gardener December 23, 2013 at 6:42 am - Reply

      Caroline in my experience, nasturtiums can be fussy movers. They can be transplanted (although not all successfully sometimes) but will definitely fold their arms in protest and look like you’ve beaten them up for up to a week or more before finally agreeing reluctantly to get on with life in their new home! Some plants can handle moving house better than others. That said, if you need to transplant them rather than plant more from seed (which they produce copious amounts of), then I suggest watering them with seaweed the day before the move (helps prevent transplant shock) and preparing a better home for them to move to, so they actually rather prefer it to their old one! i.e. add some fresh nutrients, compost and seaweed and water in well so when they arrive it’s like you’ve said “Hey I’ve put on a special dinner for you to celebrate your new house! Tuck in.” This will help soften the blow and they’ll adapt much quicker and likely protest less! Also, only move them in cool weather i.e. very early morning and perhaps protect them from the heat of the sun with some shade cloth for a few days so they settle in. The soil will be different, the conditions will be different and anything you can do to help them adapt will help swing a successful move in your favour. Good luck.

  3. caroline cumming December 22, 2013 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Hi there,
    Just been reading through different sites about nasturtiums. I want to plant en masse but can they attract so many aphids that these will still spread to veggies or other plants in the garden – I am unclear whether the aphid magnet is a good thing for the veggies or can turn out to be a bad thing for them in the end? Thanks

    • The Micro Gardener December 23, 2013 at 6:33 am - Reply

      Hi Caroline
      Aphids are a natural part of the life cycle in most gardens (just part of the food chain). They often feed on plants that are weak or unhealthy in some way so if you work on your soil by adding plenty of compost, nutrients and organic matter for your plants, this will help keep them in balance. There are many ladybird varieties that feed on aphids and if you avoid using chemicals in your garden, they will arrive to take care of business for you should there be an imbalance in aphid numbers. I see this all the time in my garden. The other day I noticed a dill plant that was struggling due to lack of water, with aphids on the stems/leaves starting to feed. The next day several ladybirds had arrived to enjoy a banquet. The day after that, there were no aphids in sight! Without some aphids, there’s no food for the ladies and they are effectively your best friends (pest patrollers) so allow nature to take care of itself without worrying too much!
      Re the nasturtiums, I have mass plantings and never had a problem with aphids getting out of control. I can’t even recall seeing them in the patch I’m thinking of. White cabbage butterflies lay eggs on them so I’ve had caterpillars but I use this to my advantage as a strategy to draw the butterflies away from my vegies like broccoli that they would normally choose to raise their families on. Think of nasturtiums as one strategy you can use in an organic garden for pest management and control. Interplanting them amongst your veggies is another. They will bring in the bees for pollination and the strong smell of the leaves can deter other insects and confuse some pests. They are one of the MUST HAVE plants in my garden and most loved for their many uses and advantages. I’d never ever plant a garden without them. I hope this helps clarify things! Cheers, Anne

  4. Dave November 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Hi, been loving my Nasturtiums!! But alas the season is over and they have gone to seed. I’ve picked a rather large bag full of the green seeds and want to know can they be frozen until wanted for eating? Or perhaps dried in a dehydrator? Thanks for all your other tips, I love em!! hahaha!

    • The Micro Gardener November 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Dave
      Great to hear you have enjoyed your nasturtiums. It depends on how you want to use them I guess. I wouldn’t recommend freezing them – they will likely lose their viability. If you are going to pickle them whilst green to preserve them, you can do that straight away. If you want to save some for seed for next season, allow the green seeds to dry out naturally then store them in an airtight self seal bag in an envelope in a cool, dark place. They naturally shrivel and go brown on their own so no need to use a dehydrator. You can also grind them up as a tasty pepper if you wish when dry. Hope this helps.

  5. […] e.g. yellow capsicums; orange marigolds; calendula; cherry tomato varieties like ‘yellow pear;’ nasturtiums; orange chard; cosmos; yellow […]

  6. How to Plant out a Herb Garden | August 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    […] Dry (in the shadow of taller plants or under trees) – nasturtium; yarrow (light shade); parsley; thyme; oregano; […]

  7. the end of the world August 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
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  8. […] 12. Easy Companion Planting. Many herbs have mutually beneficial relationships with other plants. Flowering herbs also attract beneficial pollinating insects like bees, butterflies and wasps. Growing the herbs ‘up close and personal’ in a herb spiral helps the overall health of your garden – flavours improve, less pests and better pollination. Include herbs like chamomile, borage, calendula, French marigolds and nasturtiums. […]

  9. […] to be extremely effective, although I do use it in conjunction with other techniques on this list. Nasturtiums in particular work well as a ‘catch crop’ or sacrificial plant for mummy white cabbage […]

  10. […] For more great information on Nasturtiums and other amazing herbs for health, food and medicine check out Isabell Shipard’s wonderful herb book ‘How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life?‘ or read How to Grow & Use Nasturtiums. […]

  11. Butterfly Flower | Landscaping - Gardening December 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    […] The Butterfly Flower, ‘Aschepias tuberosa L.’, is a must for the butterfly garden. Butterflies will seek out your garden when you have this vigorous perennial shrub-like plant. […]

  12. Ken Robinson December 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Greetings to all
    I just cant get these seeds to grow.
    I live in tropical Australia, can anybody help?

    • The Micro Gardener December 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Ken

      I must admit here in the sub-tropics, where we have both hot and dry weather AND very wet weather at times, there’s a wide range of conditions for the nasturtium seeds to tolerate. I find my self-sown nasturtium seeds that fall from the plants will germinate after several days of rain in the summer but struggle a bit in very dry weather. If your soil is constantly wet you may be better off trying to grow them in containers if you haven’t already, so you can somewhat control the weather at least until they get started!

      Here are a few trouble shooting tips in the meantime that may help with germinating Nasturtium seeds successfully – let us all know how you go!

      1. Soak in a seaweed solution overnight before planting.
      2. Seeds need darkness so make sure they are planted deeply enough.
      3. If the seeds are too wet or cold, they can rot. Check and see if they are soft or mushy! If so, this could be the problem.
      4. The seeds are best sown where you want them to grow rather than transplanting. Or start them in toilet roll pots or similar biodegradable ‘pots’ that you can plant into the garden once germinated as this system won’t disturb the roots. The pots will break down over time in the soil.
      5. Sow in full sun – partial shade.
      6. Make sure there is good drainage – otherwise the seeds will rot.
      7. You may find Life on the Balcony’s Seed Scarification Experiment an interesting read on different ways to germinate nasturtiums as part of the Grow Project.

      Hope this helps!

      Keep us all posted with your results.

  13. andrea November 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    As always your information is clear, concise and easy to understand…you do a wonderful job here 🙂

    • The Micro Gardener November 25, 2011 at 7:51 am - Reply

      Thanks Andrea! Glad the info is useful – hope your garden is growing well.

  14. The Micro Gardener November 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Susan
    I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Mine go through this sometimes too but bounce back. I just think of it as a ‘bad hair day’! They are very resilient.
    It has been dry and windy here too and if you want to give yours a perk up to encourage new growth, try a foliar spray of seaweed on the leaves and flowers as a tonic. They will take up the trace minerals more quickly than just watering seaweed into the soil. Otherwise you could try a drink of compost tea (make in a bucket of water with a handful of compost, worm castings or manure); or top dress around each plant with a handful of rock dust or minerals – depending on what you have available.
    I’d also recommend using a moisture meter for your soil. Any plant in stress will show symptoms. If the soil moisture is 10-30%, I’d suggest giving them a drink. Unless there is sufficient moisture they can’t take up the food from the soil to photosynthesize and produce more leaves and flowers.
    Most of the nasturtiums I have grow in a very shallow soil (mainly created from mushroom compost, minerals and manure) so I suspect it may be lack of moisture (and or exposure to hot dry winds) that may be causing them to thin out. I did add lucerne mulch to my garden beds and this has kept some moisture in the soil during the hot weather. I haven’t fed them again since they went into the beds although have watered from time to time and about monthly with seaweed when I’m doing other parts of the garden. Other than that I just pick and eat.
    Let me know how you go and if I can help further.
    Cheers, Anne

  15. Susan November 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I have planted some in a bed and they seem to have dried out with the weather in the last few weeks. I thought it would be covered in more than enough nasturtiums, but it seems my soils at present may be too thin! Oh well, will keep trying!

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