Nasturtium, Flamenco, and Spanish Guitars

Here’s a flamenco-dancing, fiesta-loving flower for your next celebration.  Yes, it is strikingly beautiful, and oh yes you can ~ eat it.

Nasturtium flower is the life of the culinary party.  If you are an amateur in the kitchen, like me, topping your dishes with this sassy sunburst will make you look good.

In the kitchen, as elsewhere, I’m a little (very little) like Thomas Edison, that is, ten thousand tries and I’ve got the darn thing working.  (Of course I know what I’m doing—crashing pots, pans, plates, and platters—and then mucho bueno, muchos gracias, amigos bellas.  Te quiero!  You see.)  But, I digress.  The point is that a bit of flashy flower goes a long way.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Go ahead and taste it.  This little dynamo is spicy—subtly hot and gingery just like it looks—and after the peppery petals hit your palate, stay awake for a teensy-tiny ping of sweetness, the nectar hidden deep in the spur.

It’s not nearly as fiery as other South of the border fare, jalapeños, say, or habaneras. Red nasturtium flowers are hotter than the orange ones, but still they won’t send you running from the room, tearing and gasping.

The lovely lily-pad leaves are also edible, and also peppery, and they look so darn cute floating in summer soups.  Add a few flowers and leaves to any kind of summer salad to punch up the party pizzazz, or if you don’t feel like waiting, just pop a perfect flower in your mouth for a tasty treat while gardening.  Do check for bugs and bees, first.   (The large leaves in the following pictures are basil. The nasturtium leaves are round.)


Nasturtium for health and healing

Few data are available on the nutrition of this plant, but they say, “eat the rainbow,” and if bright-colored pigments are best for phytonutrients, well, these are bright all right.  Nasturtium flower is known to be high in vitamin C, according to Andrew Chevallier, a well respected, internationally known medical herbalist.

Nasturtium is also useful as an herbal treatment.  It is highly antibiotic, antiseptic, and antifungal.  All parts of the plant are highly antibiotic, Dr. Chevallier reports.  The plant is native to Peru, and has been used for thousands of years in the Andes for cleaning and healing wounds and for clearing chest congestion, he notes.  It is often used for colds and flu.

Other fiery foods, like hot chili peppers, are known to be highly anti-inflammatory.   This flower likely shares some of these properties.

***One note of caution, like parsley, ginger, and a number of other herbs, nasturtium is an emmenogogue (also, emmenagogue), an herb that may stimulate menstruation via anticoagulation.  Women, especially pregnant women or those who want to become pregnant, should be aware of this.  Pregnancy is not a good time to try a new herb.  Any time you try a new edible plant, especially a medicinal herb, start small and watch for any unexpected reactions.

Growing nasturtium

The nomenclature for this plant is confusing.  Ornamental nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), the one we are talking about, is not the same as watercress (Nasturtium officinale) and the two are not related.  To muddle things further, ornamental nasturtium is often called Indian cress, both plants are edible, and both zap a peppery zing on the palate.   Happily, they don’t look at all similar, so if it looks like the pictures in this article, it is ornamental nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus).

A flower this gorgeous should be high maintenance, but it isn’t.  Nasturtium may hail from the South American Andes, but it is easy to grow just about anywhere.  Nasturtium grows best in poor soil that is well drained, and it likes damp, cool conditions.  It needs some sun, but part shade is fine, especially during hot summer days.  Too fertile soil means lots of leaves, but few flowers.

Planting nasturtium is a great project for kids, because the pea-size seeds are easy to see and to handle with little fingers.  The seeds usually germinate relatively quickly, in about 10 days.  Then, just water, admire, and eat.

Shall we dance?

So plant some nasturtium and picture this—the whirling slap of a flamenco dress, the stamp of a high-heeled shoe, the clicking castanets and the roll of Spanish guitar strings, the tropical tangos, Caribbean limbo lines, Brazilian samba, merengue, rumba ….  Whoa, you’ve got it.  Olé!  This flower is all that.

Have you tried this?  (Nasturtium, I mean.)

PS.  Thank You to Gail Simpson at Point Ellice House and Gardens for linking to this article.  If you are in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, plan a visit to this beautiful National Heritage Site and taste some nasturtium flowers from their Kitchen Garden.

© Copyright 2011, Laura J. Rongé, Ciel Bleu Media,  All rights reserved. The articles here are not intended as medical, nutritional, or other professional advice.  The ideas presented are for informational purposes only.  Please use this information with discretion.

This entry was posted in Gardening, Herbs, vegan, Vegan Organic Gardening and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Nasturtium, Flamenco, and Spanish Guitars

  1. Ligia Schiavi says:

    I loved your article about the Nasturtium flower. Since I enjoy very much any kind of spicy food, the Nasturtium flower will certainly be in my kitchen. For dessert I shall place some of these beautiful red petals in my hair and dance a flamenco dance.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Ligia, so great to hear from you! You will be even more beautiful with this flower in your hair, if that is possible. 😉 You are a lot like this flower, my friend! Hugs. xo

  2. Great post! We haven’t got the sun we need yet and my nasturtiums STILL have no flowers! This was a great read and lovely pics to keep me waiting…thanks!

    • Laura says:

      Aww, thank you, Chere Michelle! The waiting is the hardest part, isn’t it? I hope they show up soon for you. Temperamental dancers! (Wink.) xo

  3. Janet VanEerden says:

    Laura, My day was feeling a little bit like it might be going the way of the wilted daisy when I read this post. Voila! (Not sure what that would be Spanish…) Just reading this changed the color, zest AND made me wish I could tango. Now. (Or something!) Loved the pictures, loved the reading! Keep up the good work! Hmm. High-heeled red shoes may raise eyebrows at summer school pick-up so I will just think about nasturtiums…. 😉

    • Laura says:

      Aww, so glad it changed the color of your day. And oh yes you can Tango. I do it all the time in my kitchen. Haha, red shoes, or purple, why not? I have both, actually, but they are sneakers. Hugs, sweetie. xoxo

  4. Evelyn says:

    Thanks for posting – I didn’t have much luck growing them this year.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Evelyn! A garden is such a fickle thing, isn’t it? Something always goes awry, in my garden anyway. You might try again with nasturtium once the heat wave dies down. They do like it cool. Me too! 😉 Hugs.

  5. Gretchen says:

    Hey Laura! Nasturtium may well be my favorite flower. Mine didn’t do well this year, but I’ve had other years where they just about take over the whole garden. Perhaps my soil is too fertile? 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Hey Gretchen! Hehe, too fertile or too hot? I’ll be happy if anything in my garden survives this day, this week, this 112-degree heat index. ~She drapes herself over a chair, back of hand to forehead, palm leaf fanning, and sighs. Wink. Polar bear hugs! xo

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