Nasturtiums are an annual that should be considered for any summer garden. Planted in the ground or in a container, this easy to grow annual should be invited to your garden party. Mostly known for the red, orange, and yellow party dresses or blooms, nasturtium is a muli-asking Diva.
A simple pot or plot of less than perfect soil will usually do the trick. First, decide what you want – more leaves or more blooms. If you want more leaves, enhance your soil with organic matter. If you want more blooms, provide a dry slightly humus soil with low fertility. The beauty of this party girl is she is low maintenance.
SOW AND GROW
Soak the seed to soften the shell-like coating. I use a kelp/water solution when I soak any seed to hasten the germination period. Sow the seed two times as deep as the length of the seed. Nasturtiums require darkness to germinate. If you are sowing inside, seeds can be started as early as 3 weeks prior to the last frost date in your zone. In Zone 6/7, mid-April or early May, is a terrific time to start these seeds.
Be sure to watch the outside temperatures. Keep in mind, this young lady is not a fan of frost, extremely hot sun, or strong winds. If they become weather-beaten, pinch off the leaves and more leaves will surely sprout. Follow the leaf to the main stem and pinch it off. This will trigger the nasturtium to sprout more leaves. This leaf dance party will continue until the first frost of autumn.
Once the seedlings have been hardened off and planted outside, provide protection from the strong summer sun. After all, no girl wants to get sunburn or scorching on her leaves. Nasturtiums will happily consider part shade without skipping a beat.
Now that she is flourishing from a lack of attention, the nasturtium is ready to show off. From the leaves to the blossoms, certain foods can be taken from ‘okay’ to ‘dancing in your mouth!’
The leaves can be sliced up or left whole. A milder taste can be appreciated in the smaller leaves. The spicy, mustard-like bite is found in the larger leaves. If you harvest the leaves for later use, rinse, dry, and refrigerate them in a baggie. Consider using them within 3 to 5 days. Without light, the leaves will yellow.
Sliced, diced, stuffed, stir-fried, and more are just a few of the ways the nasturtium leaf can be used. Easily flavored vinegar, using the leaves and the buds make a colorful addition for use from the pantry. Tied with a bow, a jar of spicy nasturtium vinegar makes a great gift from the garden.
Imagine a large nasturtium leaf with a dab of chicken salad and rolled up as a mid-afternoon snack. Such a different twist to enjoy a chicken wrap with a little zing!
Did you know that the leaves also have an antiseptic quality? By grinding the leaves and straining in water, this solution can be used to clean up simple wounds. A natural antibiotic, fresh from the garden. Leaves of the nasturtium can also be used as a tea to soothe sore throats and minimize cold symptoms. Nasturtium leaves also contain Vitamin C…what’s not to love?
Nasturtiums are ready to dance to almost any tune from the garden to the plate! I marvel at the ways one can use this resourceful plant.
SAVOR THE FLAVOR
Stuffed blooms make such a statement at a dinner party. The unexpected mingling of herbs or dried fruit bits in goat cheese, cottage or ricotta cheese is purely delightful. Add blossoms to a jar and mince a clove or two of garlic. Allow this to settle in a pantry for a week or so. Strain and use to flavor a nice pasta, or add to a mashup of nasturtium leaves for pesto. Chopped blossoms mixed in soft butter makes a colorful spread on toast for a bit of morning joy!
CHOOSING YOUR MIXER
These are just a few ways to grow this wonderful annual. As a mixer in the garden, Nasturtium is a graceful socialite. She can hang down to cascade over the side of a planter, climb up a low fence, or be used as a groundcover. Such a tasty way to cover a barren area and have an edible border at your fingertips! There are also compact dwarf cultivars. Consult your seed catalogs to choose wisely.
WHEN THE PARTY IS OVER
What to do with the stems that are pinched back? Consider using them in a vase. This plant mixes well as a filler with just about any cut flowers. A simple vase placed in the kitchen will remind you to use every part of this plant as often as possible.
For my summer garden party, Nasturtiums will always be welcome guests. What will you invite to your summer garden party?
Seeking Nasturtium ‘Alaska’ seeds as I nest…
Teri, Cottage In The Courtby
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