Ever since I began gardening I?ve always preferred plants that provide beauty and utility. I suppose my philosophy is ?If I?m going to grow it, I?d better get something out of the deal.? That?s why I like nasturtiums ? they?re easy to grow and tasty in the kitchen.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are annuals with distinctive circular leaves and brightly colored flowers 2-3 inches across. The five petaled flowers have a two-inch spur in the back and come in shades of red, orange, yellow, and cream. There are two groups of nasturtium: the climbing ones and the bushy dwarf ones. The climbers will creep up to six feet with coiling leaf stalks or (if planted in a hanging basket) cascade to the ground. Dwarf varieties are compact bedding plants.
Nasturtiums grow best in well-drained or sandy soil. Full sun is preferred for nasturtiums but they can tolerate some shade. Just remember to keep nasturtiums well watered if they are to survive during the hot summer months. To maximize their flowering period, plant the seeds in late winter or early spring. In the more temperate part of Texas they may self-sow and provide color throughout the growing season.
The flowers, leaves, and unripe seed pods of nasturtiums are edible. The flowers have a distinct peppery flavor and are a source of Vitamin C. Try them in a salad or with vegetables sometime for an eye-catching change. The circular leaves taste like peppery watercress. Pickled nasturtium buds can be used in place of capers.
Whether you grow them for their colorful display or for a chance to venture into gourmet territory, nasturtiums deserve a spot in your garden. Add them to your list of plants this spring.