Our gardens in many lights

mercredi 30 septembre 2015

The cheerfulness and bounce of nasturtium

Cet article en français.

Hélène :
We praised the daylilly flower, we described the qualities of the borage flower, and even whispered here and there about the sweetness of the violet. Even a linden tree and its flowers captured our attention. In this article, we will focus on the vivacity of a pretty annual: the nasturtium (Tropaeoleum Majus).

Of all the edible flowers, this one has the boldest flavour: the flower tastes of pepper!

Louise :
Nasturtiums are plants that are fun to introduce to kids. Their big seeds are easy to manipulate for the kid's tiny hands, their flowers are showy and abundant, their leaves have a round, buckler shape that makes them very fun and easy to identify.

All parts of the plant are non-toxic. However, be careful with the seeds you buy: some companies spray them with a fungicide, so don't eat those seeds and wash your hands after handling them.

But apart from that warning, the entire plant is edible, from the flower, to the stalk, to the leaves, to the - yes - seeds. Those seeds, when still immature, are green, as big as a pea and taste like pepper - a stronger flavour than the flower or any other part. The seeds can be marinated and can replace capers, by the way.
At the end of September, all the plants have a hard time staying green. Not the nasturtium. It is still producing loads of flowers. Here's a giant variety of nasturtium that's overflowing its attributed space, spilling on the stone walkway and climbing up the milkweed that stands behind. It buries almost completely the lavander and if the gardening season wasn't so short, I would probably lose my watering can and my son's toys under all that greenery!

In this container, two varieties of nasturtiums, one with variegated leaves.
Nasturtiums have a wide range of styles, from dwarf varieties (reaching 30 cm - 12 in. high) and normal heigh varieties, to giants or even climbing ones (reaching 180 cm - 6 feet high). The flowers also have a wide variety of coloration, from very pale yellow to a deep red, going through bright oranges and apricot. There's even some with variegated leaves, like the picture above.
A red - very red - Nasturtium!

Nasturtium is also a marvel in the garden as a companion plant, where it's a favorite of aphids (once the aphids are on this pretty plant, they tend to leave other plants alone, the nasturtium acting as a sacrificial plant). Nasturtiums also have the reputation of driving away some pests. It can be placed near other vegetables but it has a good history being used with tomatoes, cabbages, radishes and zuchinnis. Some gardeners use her at the base of fruit trees, too.

As mentionned in a previous article, I don't plant a lot of annual flowers in the garden, but nasturtiums are the exception because they have so much to offer!       I always end up with about half a dozen, sprinkled here and there.

From the same seed packet, flowers come in a fiery orange shade or a sun bathed yellow.
As for me, nasturtium are everywhere in my garden too. Directly in the garden beds but also in containers. Often, I don't even have to replant them, the seeds seem to be hidden everywhere and sprout easily here.
Here's a climbing variety - or should I say crawling?
I love to add the flowers to salads. Their bold colors make for a festive plate that would otherwise look drab. And that peppery taste! Speaking of which, I recently worked a lot in the garden and kept bruising the multiple nasturtium plants I have: the air was peppery - of course not enough to make me sneeze like real pepper would have done - but the perfume was conspicuous and very pleasant.

A wild fight here between the potato plants and nasturtiums. Who will win this round?

Above all: while, with autumn at our door, everything seems to be on death row in the garden, the nasturtium picks up steam and looks more radiant than before. Actually, summer heat takes its toll from it - but as soon as there's a cold spell, it seems to perk right up. That's when this special plant produces a final explosion of showy flowers as if to wave a final goodbye!
Potato harvest right next to the nasturtium. Althought I ruffled it some while collecting the potatoes, it didn't seem to mind much!

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