Garden Trophy

 

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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.

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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” .

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Heirloom Seeds

Unlike the single-season hybrid seeds sold at most garden stores, open-pollinated seeds allow you to save the seeds from mature plants the cultivate again the following season. It is the traditional regenerative method used since the dawn of mankind and every gardener who cares about biodiversity should aspire to save seeds from each successive harvest in order to replant stronger, more locally-adapted plants. Dozens of companies, part of a blossoming heritage seed movement now specialize in heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. The following online catalogues provide a bounty of both seeds and tips for the savvy sovereignty-seeking urban-gardener.

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NativeSeeds/Search provides access to a wide range of heirloom vegetable seeds including those introduced to the New World by the Spanish and those traditionally used by Native Americans in the Southwest.

Redwood City Seed Company, is involved in the restorative cultivatio of native wildflowers and a good source of heirloom pepper seeds as well as tips on proper pepper propagation.

Seeds of Change has a helpful website offering good descriptions and photos of every plant variety they sell. Suitable quantities for home gardeners and small farmers are available for a wide array of open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and flower seeds.

Territorial Seeds maintains a well organized website offering an excellent selection of short-season vegetables as well as a valuable section devoted just to growing instructions. 

Sierra Seeds is a small, regional seed company based in Nevada County, California. Providing access to regionally-adapted seeds that thrive in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California. They also provide  economic incentives and on-the-ground support to a cooperative circle of seed growers, developing  outreach and educational programs  to support seed production in their region, with an emphasis on crop improvement for organic agricultural systems.