Botanical Name: Tropaeolum majus
Some other names: Indian Cress, Monks Cress
How to grow it: Nasturtiums are an annual trailing plant to about 40cm, but they’ll happily grow up fences, trellises & other plants. Although strictly speaking an annual, they behave like a perennial as they self seed so readily. In cooler climates, they might need replanting each year in spring.
They gow happily in full sun or part shade, but I’ve noticed that their leaves can get a bit bitter in the mid-summer sun – best to have them in a few different garden spots for regular supply.
They respond well to watering and fertilising, but they are so hardy they actually don’t seem to need any care at all.
Put them under taller plants & trees for an attractive living mulch that will also help repel many garden pests.
They’ll do well in pots too – try them in a hanging basket for great effect.
Propogation is simple – by cuttings that will strike in water, by root division, or by seed which can easily be collected at ground level. You can often find them as seedlings in garden shops – sold as ornamental flowers rather than food.
Very high in vitamin C along with iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The whole plant is considered a powerful antixidant so use it regularly & often!
Using it in the kitchen:
Nasturtium leaves have a peppery taste that make an interesting addition to salads and sandwiches. Check that you like the flavour though – you might want to use it sparingly to begin with.
The flowers are also edible and add great colour to salads. My kids also love sucking the nectar out of the flowers which is very sweet & delicious.
I’ve had no success in cooking the leaves – the flavour tends to dominate the dish they’re added to, so I prefer to use them fresh.
The green seeds and unopened flower buds can be pickled in vinegar to make a nice caper substitute, and the dried seeds can be ground up as a pepper substitute (not as hot as black pepper)
A truly hardy, nutritious & useful plant in your survival garden.