—Lucy Maud Montgomery, writer (1874-1942)
Belonging to the Tropaeolaceae family, nasturtium is a vibrant and unique herb popular for its striking appearance and earthy, peppery flavor is most often used in culinary dishes, particularly salads and sandwiches. It’s colorful blossoms and unique lily pad-shaped leaves make it a popular ornamental addition to gardens. The trumpet-shaped flowers are usually vibrantly colored and come in a range of sunset colors. Nasturtium can be an annual or perennial, depending on the variety, and it can grow up to 12 inches tall. The plant is easy to grow and is often used in gardening as an attractive ground cover or climbing vine. I prefer to have it draping over the corners of my garden beds, mounds pillowing out of large containers and across garden floors, or cascading down hanging planters. All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible.
Nasturtium has many beneficial attributes including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties that are used to naturally support those with sore throats, ear infections, colds, skin irritations such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis, and reduce swelling and inflammation. It is rich in vitamin C, iron, and antioxidants.
In the kitchen, I love to highlight the beautiful ornamental properties of nasturtium by using it fresh as a garnish or topping to an elegant floral element and spicy kick to salads, pastas, charcuterie boards, and other savory dishes. The beautiful color of nasturtium is perfect for topping cakes, infusing in vinegar, or adding it dried and crumbled or blended into a powder to be mixed with salts and other seasonings. It can also be incorporated into herbal tea blends. Even the seeds are edible and can be pickled; sometimes called “the poor man’s caper.”
I prefer to harvest the flowers in the morning after the dew has dried off but before it heats up so that the flowers have the highest water content. Maddie loves to help me with this garden task and flutters around the garden with her purple garden shears clipping away. Recently, I've infused vodka with them to give my Moscow mules a kick, and, shown here, I’ve created a nasturtium vinegar to use as a base for salad dressings. Here is my nasturtium vinegar recipe:
You Will Need
1 heaping cup of freshly harvested flowers
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large handful of fresh chive
1 small handful of whole peppercorns
Infuse these ingredients for two weeks, shaking daily. Then strain and use to make vinaigrette. The nasturtium turns the vinegar to a gorgeous bright orange which is beautiful for gifting! I think I might bottle some into small jars to give away!
I cut two small sheets of parchment paper that I place under the lid before screwing on the rim, as vinegar will cause the lid to erode.