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The Bend Magazine

Nasturtiums: The Edible Flowers of Spring

12/29/2017 12:26PM ● By Justin Butts
Words by: Justin Butts  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

The most beautiful flower in your Spring garden is also the most delicious! The bold flavor of
nasturtiums is one of the best-kept secrets of gardeners in the Coastal Bend.


Nasturtiums are native to the Andes Mountains of Peru. Spanish explorers discovered nasturtiums around 1560 and sent seeds home to Spain. Soon, nasturtium cultivation spread to England and then to Colonial America, where pioneers called them “Indian cresses.”


The leaves and flowers of nasturtiums are exquisitely delicious. The leaves have a spicy, bold, and
unique flavor. They are perfect for salads, but you can also use nasturtium leaves on your
burgers instead of lettuce, or on pizza instead of basil.


The gorgeous orange, yellow, and red flowers taste almost like fruit. In fact, Thomas Jefferson
classified nasturtiums with the “fruits” of his garden and grew them in great abundance. Pickled
nasturtium seeds taste even better than capers.


As delicious as nasturtiums are, their true glory is the color they bring to your garden. The
beautiful flowers top the round and oval leaves that are a deep dark green. The leaves bead
water in a particular way that make dew-covered nasturtiums the most beautiful view in your
morning garden.


Nasturtiums are easy to grow in modest or even poor soils. Your nasturtiums, planted in
January, will be fully mature by Spring Break. Nasturtiums grow best in a wide bed (four feet
wide or wider) of loose, well-tilled soil. Add an inch or so of high-quality compost to the bed
before planting.


Using your finger or the wooden end of a garden hoe, draw parallel lines six inches apart across
the width of the bed. Drop your large black nasturtiums seeds about two inches apart down each row and cover with no more than 1/4 inch of dirt. Mulch between the rows with raked up leaves from your lawn.


You can order quality nasturtium seeds on-line from Eden Brothers or Baker Creek Heirloom
Seeds. Thin your nasturtiums to final spacing of six inches and enjoy the thinnings.


Once the nasturtium plants mature, harvest a few the of the round leaves daily. Always leave at
least 2/3rds of the leaves to allow photosynthesis to regenerate new leaves. By taking a few
leaves each day, your plants will continue to grow lush and put on new leaves.


Harvest the red, yellow, and orange flowers as soon as they fully bloom. Fifteen or twenty
nasturtium plants will keep the typical kitchen plentifully supplied with tasty nasturtium leaves
and flowers all the way into the heat of early summer.