I’ve been a fan of nasturtiums (Tropaeolum minor) ever since we began growing our own food. They make such a colourful addition to the vegetable patch, plus they’re edible and importantly for us as gardeners who choose not to use artificial chemicals, they make great companion plants.
This year we have more than ever growing in a small area of the polytunnel. When I was sowing seeds this springtime I ran out of compost so rather than wait, I popped several nasturtium seed pods directly into the soil with the intention of replanting them outside once they’d germinated and the risk of frost had passed. I never got around to it and we are now blessed with a glorious display of flowers that are attracting all kinds of pollinating insects inside.
As a result of this unexpected crop, I’ve being doing a bit of research and have not only found several uses for nasturtiums, I also managed to create a quick and simple cookie recipe using their petals as a flavouring. First up, here’s a few uses for nasturtiums if you have them growing in your garden:
Five Uses for Nasturtiums:
1. Companion planting
Our number one reason for growing them in the vegetable garden, nasturtiums make fantastic companion plants. They’re often referred to as sacrificial plants as insects are so attracted to them. Cabbage white butterflies will often lay their eggs on the leaves and the baby caterpillars hatch, eating the nasturtiums and not your kale or broccoli. Nasturtiums also attract blackfly (that like to feed upon broad bean flowers) but thankfully hoverfly like the nasturtiums colourful petals too and their larvae will feed on the little black aphids.
2. A Source of Vitamins
The fresh leaves of nasturtiums are a good source of iron and vitamin C and because they’re edible can be added to salads, though as in the case of many herbs, should be treated with slight caution – guidelines suggest you should never eat more than 15g of leaves at a time or no more than 30g per day.
3. Beauty Benefits
Folklore suggests that nasturtiums are good for treating hair loss. A ‘tea’ can be made by soaking a cup full of flowers in a jug (litre) of hot water which is allowed to cool, before straining and the ‘tea’ massaged into the scalp before rinsing. It acts as a stimulant which is said to encourage new hair growth.
4. Floral Gifts
The nasturtium flower carries a significant meaning and according to the anniversary flower list, they are associated with the 40th Wedding Anniversary and carry the meaning conquest, patriotism, victory and impetuous love!
5. Culinary Uses. There are several recipes available using nasturtiums. From a cream cheese dip (100g cream cheese, 2 tblsp chopped nasturtium leaves and three flowers mixed together) to pesto and substitute capers. We made some jars of ‘capers’ last year using the seed pods during the community garden project, selling them at the community garden stall at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival and I can confirm, they were very firey indeed!
If you’d like to try cooking with nasturtiums, here’s a very quick and simple chewable cookie recipe that uses the flowers to spice up the biscuits as opposed to the usual biscuit flavourings of cinnamon or ginger.
Nasturtium Cookie Recipe
Makes about 25 (more if you make the cookie balls smaller)
Preheat oven to 160ºC, Gas 3, 325°F
125g/4oz golden syrup
50g/2oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon chopped nasturtium flowers
Half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g/8oz self-raising flour
Place all the ingredients except the flour into a saucepan, heat gently and stir until melted and combined.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the flour into the mixture.
Roll the cookie dough into balls about half the size of golf balls and place onto lined and greased baking trays, leaving a space of about five centimeters between each one (if you want perfect cookies or closer if you don’t mind them all joining up as in the photo above) Cook for ten minutes in the pre-heated oven.
Leave on the baking trays for a few minutes to firm up, sprinkling a few shredded nasturtium petals on top. Remove from the trays and leave on wire trays to cool.
If you try making them, I’d love to hear how the cookies went down with everyone. My family tried them with faces full of suspicion which quickly changed to smiles of pleasure!
Do you grow nasturtiums in your garden and use them in the kitchen or had any success with them as companion plants?