Recipe: Put some colour on your plate

Nasturtiums are a brilliant plant for both the garden and the table, says Emma Crowhurst

Nasturtiums are a brilliant plant for both the garden and the table, says Emma Crowhurst - Credit: Archant

Emma Crowhurst takes a look at edible flowers

After 18 years with my young man we finally tied the knot last weekend.

My wedding buffet table was a simple affair. Its crowning glory was my home-grown lettuce decorated with beautiful edible flowers – the sharp mustard tang of nasturtium leaves and flowers is a wonderful addition to mixed leaves.

I have been nurturing my bed of salad, into which are woven flowers and baby cabbages. Marigolds, aquilegia, beetroot and courgettes all grow together neatly under netting. No bugs or butterflies have troubled my crop and I have kept the chickens well clear.

Nasturtiums are a great plant if you’re looking to fill in bare areas because they are so quick to germinate and oh so hardy. Toss a packet of seeds – nasturtium seeds are fairly big and look like peas – into the soil, water, and within a matter of weeks you’ll have injected your landscape with a kaleidoscope of vibrant colour.

If your outdoor space is limited, you can plant your seeds in window boxes, raised beds or pots. Nasturtiums thrive in poor soil and grow well in full sun or partial shade. They are an annual but may re-seed themselves and they grow the best from seed, so there’s no need to purchase expensive plants from a nursery. They really are some of the easiest, most forgiving plants in the garden – great for beginners.

They’re not picky and they’ll grow well in any type of soil. Just be sure to keep them well watered throughout the growing season, especially if you’re growing them in containers. In all honesty, there’s no need to put much effort into the soil. Because, if it’s too rich you’ll end up with more leaves than flowers. Nasturtiums simply do better in poor soil.

Most Read

They also are a great companion plant. Nasturtiums help deter aphids, squash bugs, white flies, cucumber beetles and a host of other pests. Plant them alongside veggies such as tomatoes, cabbage, radishes, and cucumbers.

The entire plant is edible – leaves, flowers, stems and seeds. I consider nasturtiums a spicy green and grow them in my garden as such. Add the leaves and flowers to any green salad, stuff the blossoms with a herb cream cheese, or chop them and add to pastas for a delicious addition to any meal. During the mid-20th Century people used nasturtium seed pods as a replacement for pepper. We can still do this today. All you have to do is wait for the seeds to dry and then grind them in a coffee grinder.

Nasturtiums are nutritionally dense, as their leaves contain significant levels of vitamin C and iron. Medicinally they are known to be useful in breaking up congestion of the respiratory system and they provide excellent relief from colds. Likewise, nasturtium is said to encourage the formation of blood cells and can be given as a blood purifier and detoxifier. When preparing for a harvest, remember to choose fresh leaves and flowers that show no sign of browning or withering.

Try them with this salad dressing, below.