Originally of Peruvian descent, the lovely and delicious Nasturtium was once highly prized by the Incas as both a vegetable and a medicine. Colorful and self-reliant, Nasturtiums will gladly make themselves at home in any garden offering sufficient water, good light, and proper drainage.
Though their common Latinate name Nasturtium translates as “nose-twister” in reference to the delicately sharp cress-like taste of the flowers, Tropaeolum Majus is what the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus chose to name them. Apparently, he found their small floral buds reminiscent of the trophy poles once used in ancient Roman victory celebrations.
In ancient Rome, after each successful battle, a pole (or tropaeum, from the Greek tropaion) was raised in the public square upon which the Romans would drape the vanquished foe’s armor and weapons in celebration. Linnaeus found the large round leaves of this flower reminiscent of shields, and the dappled petals of blood-stained helmets.
Nutritionally, Nasturtiums are bursting with both Vitamins A and C, inspiring many incidents of antioxidants with which to boost your immune system. They also contain mustard oil, known for its disinfectant, antibiotic, anti-fungal, and even anti-viral properties. Lastly, Nasturtium flowers contain the highest amount of Lutein (from Latin luteus meaning “yellow”) of any vegetable, An organic pigment, also found in carrots, Lutein is considered to be quite beneficial to one’s eyesight.
The author Buckner Hollingsworth in a long out-of-print book entitled Flower Chronicles once quoted Paxton’s Magazine of Botany wherein a certain “Mr. Trimmer” reported seeing “luminescent scintillations” shimmering above his Nasturtiums.
To corroborate this strange conceit no less of an authority than Erasmus Darwin, (grandfather of Charles) himself, was also cited as having witnessed an “electric lustre” emanating from the crowns of the delicate flowers. The luminous mystery remains intriguing, though one might naturally attribute the scientists unusual observations to the influence of other inspiring garden edibles.
Experts rcommend gather Tropaeolum in the moist hours of the early morning and to pick out only the most nascent leaves and tender buds. With their mild slight radishy note, Nasturtium flowers can transform even a modest potato or rice salad into a dish that is both beautiful and delicious. Or pickle the pods in vinegar and salt to create piquant “Nasturtium Capers”.
From the Garden: