Nasturtiums are indigenous to Peru where they were prized by the Incas as both a vegetable and a medicine. Always eager garden volunteers, Nasturtiums will make their home in any garden that offers them sufficient water, sunlight, and drainage.
“Nose-twister“, is the direct translation of Nasturtium’s Latinate name. The classically educated Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus named the flower Tropaeolum Majus because its unopened buds reminded him of the trophy poles (tropaeum) that ancient Romans used to drape with the captured armor of their enemies.
Nasturtiums contain both vitamin A and C as well as mustard oil with its antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. The colorful flowers also offer more Lutein by weight than any other vegetable. Lutein is the pigment found in carrots known to improve eyesight.
The erstwhile garden writer Buckner Hollingsworth, in her Flower Chronicles, tells of a certain “Mr.Trimmer” who once spied “luminescent scintillations” shimmering above his Nasturtiums. In a generous attempt to defend Mr. Trimmer’s credibilty, (and perhaps sobriety), Hollingsworth cites Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charleshimself, who once claimed to have witnessed “an electric lustre” emanating from above his naturtiums.
Hollingsworth exhort us to gather our Nasturtiums at dawn when they are full or vigor and sharpest in flavor. TShe also suggests we seek out only nascent buds, young flowers, and tender pale green leaves with which to dress our salads.
The Nasturtium’s steampunk-style pod can be submerged in a shallow dish of apple cider vinegar and salt and chilled overnight to become piquant “Nasturtium Capers”. They will add a radishy touch of Panache to your next potato salad.