Towards the end of June, I received some seeds from Dobies to trial. I chose varieties that could be sown later in the year, but at the point at which they arrived I didn’t have a garden. The paving was finished, but the raised beds weren’t yet built. I chose to sow only the nasturtiums – Princess of India and Alaska.
Traditional advice for getting the best out of nasturtiums is based on the fact that they flower more freely if they’re grown in poor soil. Give them too much fertilizer, and they’ll grow lush and leafy and forget about flowering. Mine ended up being planted inbetween my new perennial veggies about a month later. In a bed which is full of deep, rich and heavily manured soil 🙂
This is the result. Not all of the plants are this large, but this particular Alaska has gone nutty. It’s only just thinking about flowering now, so it may not manage it before the frosts come.
One of the Princess of India plants has just about managed to put out a few flowers. There might be more on the way 🙂
I thought I would do a taste test to see whether these varieties were suitable for salad leaves (since Alaska, at least, is very productive!). You can see that Alaska has grown much larger leaves, despite being variegated (which normally cuts down on vigour).
A quick nibble of each and I could discern no difference in flavour between the two. Nor did it seem that leaf size made a difference on the flavour front. I did also eat a flower (just the petals, didn’t fancy the rest). The result is that, on their own, nasturtiums are too peppery for me. It’s just too strong a flavour. If you’re a big fan of rocket then you might like it.
Taking some leaves into the kitchen, I chopped them up and mixed them into a salad with blander ingredients and put on my normal dressing – a splash of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of basil oil. Like this they’re much more palatable, and very edible. Alaska is a pretty leaf, and if you had more flowers you could mix in petals as well.
So… my verdict is that nasturtium leaves are a good addition to a mixed salad, and certainly easy to grow. Mine were nibbled a little bit by cabbage white caterpillars. To begin with a did wipe off the eggs when I saw them, then I got distracted. The plants grew through it, I never noticed any significant damage (this is in contrast to my old garden, where nasturtiums could be eaten to stems in a matter of days). Perhaps the late planting gave them an edge (although cabbage white ‘season’ runs from May to October, so they were never safe).
Do you eat your nasturtiums?
Want more? Here’s some related reading to get stuck into:
With so many edible parts, nasturtiums were my GlutBusters star plant for September 2014.
If you’re new to growing nasturtiums, get ready for the spring sowing season by reading how to grow nasturtiums.
Mine are unlikely to set seed this late in the year, but nasturtiums are one of the easiest plants for seed saving, and you can collect your own seed to sow next year. (They may also self-seed.)
And nasturtiums are a good source of lutein, one of the phytonutrients that are good for keeping your eyes healthy.