Let the daring Nasturtium be the trophy of your garden. Originally of Peruvian descent, her beauty was once prized by the Incas as both a vegetable and a medicine, and her perpetual wanderlust means she will make herself at home anywhere there is sufficient moisture, sunlight, and good drainage.
Though commonly called by her Latinate name of Nasturtium or “nose-twister“, in reference to her slightly sharp cress-like taste, Tropaeolum Majus is what Carl Linnaeus dubbed her because he found the unopened buds reminiscent of the trophy poles once used in ancient Roman victory celebrations. Apparently, after each successful battle a pole (or tropaeum, from the Greek tropaion, as in “trophy”) was erected in the public square in Rome whereupon the vanquished foe’s armor and weapons were draped. Tropaeolums large round leaves also reminded the martial-minded Swedish botanist of shields, and her flowers of blood-stained helmets.
Nasturtiums are also bursting with Vitamins A and C providing ample antioxidants to help boost your immune system. They also contain mustard oil, which has disinfectant, antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and perhpas even anti-tumor properties. Interestingly, Nasturtium flowers also contain the highest amount of Lutein of any vegetable, even more than raw kale. Lutein is considered to be quite beneficial to the eyesight.
Lastly, Nasturtiums are even the stuff of legends. Buckner Hollingsworth in a little yellow book called Flower Chronicles quotes Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, a 19th century gardening publication wherein a “Mr. Trimmer” reports seeing “luminescent scintillations” shimmering above his Nasturtiums.
Moreover, no less an authority than Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, once wrote of witnessing an “electric lustre” emanating from the flowers, although one might attribute this observation to the influence of other garden edibles.
Remember to try and gather your Nasturtiums in the dew-dripping moisture of the morning hours and seek out the tenderest leaves and nascent flowers for your table. Nasturtium flowers will transform even the most modest potato or rice salad into something truly spectacular. You can even pickle the pods in vinegar and salt in order to prepare yourself piquant “Nasturtium Capers” .