Most people think of Nasturtiums as the summer annual, and very few think of the Nasturtium as a herb. Well this annual, with its pleasant peppery taste has become a favorite herb all over the world. In many places where the Nasturtium seeds are marketed, there are many varieties and beautiful cultivars that abound. There is the more well-known compact bush Nasturtiums, the double flowering Nasturtiums, and they all come in a breathtaking array of colors. These colors include the bright orange that we all know, but there are also brilliant yellow, cream, red, burgundy red and about every combination and shade in between that you can think of. Nasturtiums also grow as perennials, however, with smaller flowers. They have spurred, flat, to widely trumpet shaped flowers. It is not unheard of to have as many as twenty plus different colors or shades and combinations from a single packet of seeds that is sown two seasons previously. My personal favorite Nasturtiums are the Double Gem and the Scarlet Jewel varieties. And amongst the dwarf Nasturtium varieties the Double Gleam and Whirly Bird never disappoints.
Anyone can grow Nasturtiums – it is literally child's play. Nasturtiums have always been a very rewarding flower and bountiful crop to cultivate. All that is required is merely for the home gardener to loosen some soil in full sun and press the big seeds in it. Keep the soil moist, and within a few days the succulent Nasturtium seedlings will show. Within a week of sowing you will know exactly how many of your Nasturtium seeds germinated. Nasturtium can thrive literally anywhere and in any type of soil. In fact you do not even need compost or fertilizers. However, if your garden soil is too rich, you will have masses of leaves at the expense of flowers. However, best conditions are sandy soil and a sunny position. The seeds of the Nasturtium are about the same size as peas. If you happen to grow Nasturtiums in a protected area, they will even grow on as a biennial, but since Nasturtiums seeds so easily it is best to plant them every year on an annual basis to allow for younger plants. The younger plants taste better.
Nasturtiums can be grown from seed that are sown in Spring. Sow your Nasturtium seeds approximately 40 cm apart from where they are to flower. Keep damp. In frost-free areas Nasturtiums will be self-seeding and in some cases even grow as perennials. When preparing your garden beds for Nasturtium cultivation make use of a generous amount of well-rotted manure and compost. Keep your garden bed well watered until the Nasturtiums are mature. From then onwards water only once a week. Nasturtiums will grow to about 35 to 40 cm if trailing and otherwise to about 30 cm.
When harvesting only pick the leaves and flowers as you need them. And harvest the Nasturtium seeds only when they are ripe. IT does not hurt to plant Nasturtiums near broccoli or apple trees. It will help to fight of plant diseases like aphids and woolly aphids. Nasturtiums also make an excellent companion plant to not just broccoli or apple trees, but also to corn, sweet corn, Zea maize, tomatoes and cabbages.
How to use Nasturtiums
Add crushed Nasturtium seeds to insect repelling spray. The seeds can be harvested right through the year. You can also store the Nasturtium seeds in vinegar for future use.
Problems with pimples – soothe and relief and heal pimples by using crushed Nasturtium petals on the afflicted areas. Use crushed leaves and flowers in aqueous cream to relieve cracked heels.
There is not a single part of the Nasturtium that cannot be used for medicinal purposes.
At the first sign of a sore throat you can chew on a Nasturtium leaf and another hour after that you should chew yet another Nasturtium leaf, and a third after that. This is a treatment to ward off colds and flu. Nasturtiums are high in vitamin C and acts as a natural antibiotic. In South America the Nasturtium is used as a treatment for bladder and kidney ailments, as well as for sore throats, coughs, colds and flu. Even Bronchitis treatments include ingesting Nasturtiums. There are also recorded instances of Nasturtiums that were used in the treatment of scurvy and blood disorders due to the Nasturtium's variety of vitamins and minerals.
Nasturtiums can also be used as a hair growth stimulant. The juice of the Nasturtium flowers and the buds stimulates the tiny capillaries of the scalp. By massaging a Nasturtium, Nettle and Rosemary hair rinse into the scalp and rinsing the hair afterward, you stimulate the hair follicles in the scalp to grow hair. Make this rinse by boiling one cup of each of these herbs in two liters of water for about fifteen minutes. Then cool and strain. The French decoction is one cup of Nasturtium flowers and buds and half a cup of Nasturtium leaves in one liter of water. Simmer for fifteen minutes with the lid on, cool strain as use in the same way as the Nasturtium, Nettle and Rosemary hair rinse.
Suffering from chronic sores, boils, abscesses and sties? You can make use of Nasturtiums to treat them. Use the Nasturtium leaves and juices can be applied locally. Make a poultice of crushed Nasturtium seeds and place it on a bandage then wrung out in hot water. Apply this poultice twice daily to treat these ailments.
Nasturtium leaves and flowers taste like cress and can thus be used in a salad and as a sandwich filling. Try some Nasturtium leaves and flowers with cream cheese. It is simply delicious.
Use Nasturtium flowers as garnishing for food. Float some nasturtium flowers when making a punch or use to decorate savory dishes and salads.
Nasturtium seeds make for an excellent pickle because of its peppery flavor. The Nasturtium seeds can be used in sauces and when pickled, the taste resembles that of capers. Pickle Nasturtium seeds by packing the seeds into a bottle with a sprig of Thyme, a few cloves and two bay leaves. Cover with hot vinegar and a sprinkling of salt. Seal and store for a month before using.