Do you grow herbs? They can provide a whole heap of benefits from culinary to medicinal uses and even a splash of colour and fragrance. Some flowering herbs like nasturtiums really earn a special place in the garden because of the added value they provide. So check out these 20 uses for nasturtiums – they may surprise you!
Colourful nasturtiums are one herb that’s easy to fall in love with. This plant is an absolute winner in my book. Whilst many think of nasturtiums as just pretty flowers, these attractive herbs have an amazing array of benefits to offer you.
There are several types of nasturtium. The one I can never get enough of in our garden is ‘Tropaeolum majus’ (commonly known as Indian Cress). Not ‘Nasturtium Officinale’ that grows in water and is often referred to as watercress!
Nasturtiums – More than just a pretty face!
Aside from stealing the limelight in any garden with their dazzling display of colour, nasturtiums are one of the most multi-functional plants you can grow. They are an ideal plant for every survival food and medicinal garden.
20 Uses for Nasturtiums
I’m so thrilled with this plant. I just have to share 20 uses for nasturtiums that I’ve learned about these decorative ‘quiet achievers.’ If you only have limited space, choose wisely and pick plants that offer you multiple functions.
1. Nasturtiums are edible
Not only do they look good, but they taste great too – in fact, you can eat the ENTIRE plant! The leaves have a slightly warm peppery flavour similar to watercress and rocket. The flowers are milder with sweet nectar. The seeds, though hot and fragrant, are edible too. (More about that later!) A word of warning, however, never eat any flower or plant that has been treated with pesticides or other chemicals! Start with organic seeds.
2. Nasturtiums are rich in nutrients
The leaves are high in vitamin C (supports a strong immune system), iron and other minerals and the flowers are plentiful in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C and also contain manganese, iron, phosphorus and calcium.
3. Nasturtiums are insect pest repellents
These herbs work in several ways to deter pests. Nasturtiums mask the scent of plants that are commonly targeted by pests and disguise the leaves of food plants that pests are looking for. The strongly scented leaves actively repel certain pests and attract others as a trap crop. They pack a real punch by secreting a mustard oil that some insects are attracted to. You can plant them as a sacrificial companion crop to attract cabbage white butterflies so they lay their eggs on your nasturtiums and leave your brassicas like broccoli, cabbage and kale alone!
Nasturtiums “secrete an essence into the soil, which is absorbed by other plants, helping them to resist attack by pests and disease.” – Isabell Shipard’s wonderful herb book ‘How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life?’
4. Medicinal health benefits
Many scientific studies* have been done to discover the healing properties of this plant. The leaves have been found to contain powerful antibiotic, antimicrobial, antioxidant and general tonic actions, and can aid digestion. Studies show the unique compounds in nasturtiums to be effective against some microorganisms that are resistant to common antibiotics; may help prevent and relieve coughs, colds and flu and eating 3 seeds daily helps build up resistance to viruses, colds and measles. One leaf eaten per hour at the onset of a sore throat can drastically reduce the severity of the infection. It is also used as an expectorant, anti-fungal and antiseptic. Perhaps you can see why I love this herb so much! ** (See disclaimer and references)
“I am using the nasturtiums almost daily now I’ve realised their many health benefits. Herb guru, Isabell Shipard recommended eating 3 fresh leaves 3 times a day a few months ago when I had a cough that just wouldn’t disappear for over a month. I only managed 3 leaves twice for one day and the cough went overnight! An impressive outcome and I put this down to the fast working antibiotic action in the plant.”
5. Companion plants
According to the useful book ‘Permaculture Plants’ nasturtiums also make great companion plants to turnips, radishes, cucumbers and zucchini.
6. Nasturtium flowers attract beneficial insects
7. Great value space fillers for frugal gardeners
A healthy plant can cover three square metres so you save heaps by not having to buy lots of other plants to cover the same space.
8. Cheerful cut flowers
Pick them and pop in a vase on your dining table or kitchen bench – with their attractive foliage they make a pretty edible arrangement. They keep well in water but even better, eat them or use as a garnish with each meal and then replenish from your garden! The bright green rounded leaves are just as attractive as the flowers.
9. Nasturtiums are long flowering
These annual prolific bloomers provide great value flowering for prolonged periods most of the year until frost.
10. Dead easy to grow
This carefree, humble herb thrives on neglect … so lazy gardeners take note! They are not fussy about soil, sun or shade and are ideal for beginner gardeners.
11. Heaps of free seeds
You get a huge number of new nasturtium plants from just one! When the flower dies off, a seed head forms. Every flower produces 2-3 new pale green seeds. If you don’t pick and save these, they will voluntarily drop to the ground and self-sow. You can use the seeds in many ways. Dry and grind to make your own pepper, eat raw in salads or as a snack, or pickle the green seeds to preserve them and use as a caper substitute.
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12. Colourful blooms
Nasturtiums have to be one of the most cheerful flowers to have in your garden. Some varieties have variegated leaves so you can enjoy stripey white and green colours as well.
13. Living Mulch/Ground Cover
Because of the profuse leaf growth, nasturtiums make a wonderful mulch if you chop and drop it around your plants. Or grow nasturtiums as a ground cover to shade your soil and reduce moisture loss. Nasturtiums will break down and decompose at the end of their life, adding nutrients to your soil.
14. Fast flowers and living artwork
Nasturtium plants grow quickly and are a great choice for covering a horizontal or vertical area in a short space of time. Climbing varieties are ideal for trellises and vertical structures and compact cultivars are ideal for pots and small spaces.
15. Nasturtiums as a flavour improver
This herb is an excellent companion for many plants, improving their growth and flavour.
16. Great garnish
Both nasturtium leaves and flowers make pretty garnishes on any plate. You can pickle the raw green seeds and use as capers too.
17. Weed out weeds
Once established, the thick cover of nasturtium leaves and flowers will provide enough shade to overcome most weed competition.
18. Poultry pharmacy
Discerning chooks will benefit from the strongly antiseptic and medicinal properties in the leaves. Given a chance your chickens will snack on the seeds and self-medicate. This herb is a vermifuge (de-wormer) so is good to use for worming your chickens. Nasturtiums are also great for chooks with nervous ailments and depression. Yes – they do have feelings! The strong scent also repels annoying insect pests. Toss them in with your chicken’s regular feed or grow up their coop (planted on the outside to avoid them digging up the roots).
19. Fragrant flowers
The light spicy-sweet fragrance provides a delicate scent, especially planted near a seating area. Pop a few in a vase indoors to enjoy their aroma wafting in the room.
20. Make beautiful pressed flowers
This is a whole other subject. If you are crafty or have children, making your own wrapping paper, cards and other craft is a great way to preserve the beauty of these lovely flowers and leaves.
Like this idea? Watch how to press your flowers here:
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 and Use Nasturtiums.
Did you enjoy these 20 uses for nasturtiums? If you’re like me and love plants that are really worth their weight in gold in your garden, plant nasturtiums! You may just find yourself falling in love with them as I have.
This content is intended for educational use only for motivating and inspiring you to empower yourself with the knowledge and skills to grow your own herbs for health and healing. It is not provided to diagnose, prescribe, cure or treat any disease or illness. The reader is obliged to perform their own due diligence and/or research to establish the accuracy of such general information. This information is not a substitute for health and medical advice from a qualified health professional. The reader should seek the advice of a qualified health practitioner with any questions about their health, medical condition or before using herbs in their diet, especially if pregnant or using medications.
- Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities of the volatile oil compounds from Tropaeolum majus L. (Nasturtium)
- Nasturtium (Indian cress, Tropaeolum majus nanum) dually blocks the COX and LOX pathway in primary human immune cells
- Nutritional Composition and Antioxidant Capacity in Edible Flowers: Characterisation of Phenolic Compounds by HPLC-DAD-ESI/MSn
- Study of the hypolipidemic activity of Egyptian Tropaeolum majus L. (garden nasturtium) as a promising therapeutic plant for treatment of cardiac diseases
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