Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum Majus) are indigenous to Peru and were once prized by the Incas as both a vegetable and a medicine. Their Latinate name of Nasturtium (“nose-twister“), refers to thier slightly sharp cress-like taste. Tropaeolum Majus is what the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus dubbed them because he found their unopened buds reminiscent of the trophy poles once used in ancient Roman victory celebrations.
Nasturtiums are surprisingly nutritious. They are high in Vitamins A and C, and contain ample antioxidants. They also contain mustard oil, which is known to have disinfectant, antibiotic, anti-fungal, and even anti-viral properties. Tropaeolum Majus also provide the highest amount of Lutein of any vegetable, even more than raw kale. Lutein is considered to be quite beneficial to the eyesight.
Nasturtiums have a truly luminous reputation. According to Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, a 19th century gardening publication, a “Mr. Trimmer” has reported seeing “luminescent scintillations” shimmering above the Nasturtiums in his garden and Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, writes of witnessing an “electric lustre” emanating from the flowers…though I suspect the influence of other garden edibles.
Remember to gather your Nasturtiums in the early morning hours and to pluck only the most tender leaves and newly-opened flowers. Fresh Nasturtium flowers will transform a simple potato or rice salad into something both beautiful and delicious and you can pickle the green pods in vinegar and salt in order to prepare yourself piquant “Nasturtium Capers” .
*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.
But there is heard
the patter of a little sad rain
in her heart’s garden,
where some flower buds
that were once thinking of the sun
will never open,
because man keeps a little room
of oblivion in his soul.