Nasturtiums are indigenous to Peru where they were prized by the Incas as both a vegetable and a medicine. Always eager garden volunteers, they will gladly make their home in any garden twith sufficient water, sunlight, and drainage.
“Nose-twister” is the direct translation of thier Latinate name, and refers to their delicately sharp and cress-like taste. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus dubbed them Tropaeolum Majus, with respect to their stalks and buds. Apparently the martial-minded botanist found the large round leaves reminiscent of shields, the dappled and damasked petals of blood-stained helmets, and the budding flowers themselves of the trophy poles (or tropaeum) ancient Romans would raised in the public square in order to flaunt the captured armor of their foes.
Nasturtiums offer significant amounts of both vitamins A and C, to your salad as well as their mustard oil which its abundant antibiotic, anti-fungal, and even anti-viral properties. The flowers also contain copious quantities of Lutein, the pigment also found in carrots that is known to improve eyesight.
Buckner Hollingsworth, in her long out-of-print Flower Chronicles, mentions the assertions of a Mr.Trimmer who reported seeing “luminescent scintillations” shimmering above his Nasturtiums. In a generous attempt to defend Mr.Trimmer’s vision and sobriety, Hollingsworth cites Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of the father of evolution, and his similar claims to have once witnessed “an electric lustre” emanating from the flowers.
Try to gather Nasturtiums early in the day when they are full of vigor and sharper in flavor. Choose nascent buds, young bright flowers, and the smaller supple leaves for your salad.
You can preserve a few of the Deco-looking pods in a shallow dish filled with apple cider vinegar and salt. After jspending a night in the refrigerator they ‘ll become piquant “Nasturtium Capers” with which you can perk up your next potato salad.