My garden is abloom with ruffles of sunny yellows and bold oranges. Nasturtiums: prettiness so good you can eat it.
The entire nasturtium plant above the ground is edible, and each part has a distinctive taste and use:
- delicately-flavoured flowers are great in salads, wraps and smoothies. I seem to recall a trend of adding flowers to salads in the 70s or 80s; various modern and ancient dishes incorporate floral essences (such as rosewater, orange blossom water, lavender) or tiny buds (eg. violets) as a microherb;
- the peppery leaves can be used as you would any other soft, green herb in salads, soups and stews;
- the seeds – apparently you can use these as a substitute for capers (when pickled) and black pepper (dry). On the strength of the one seed that I at yesterday, I could imagine the seeds being used in place of pepper, but my tastebuds and imagination could not be stretched to believe that they could be caper-like in any way (and, yet, I can see myself pickling them just to see) .
You may be thinking ‘why…?’, and I am excited to tell you that there are excellent health reasons to consider adding nasturtiums to your meals.
Nasturtiums are high in vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, flavonoids and carotenoids . They also contain an appreciable amount of glucosinolates, or mustard-like oils, which keeps garden pests at bay and explains why they make such good companion plants .
It is also because of its pungent oils that this showy South American plant demonstrates antibacterial and even antibiotic properties. While generally considered to be an immunity booster, a 2006 study verifies that nasturtium stems can be used, with horseradish, to directly treat upper respiratory tract and urinary tract infections [3,4]. Other reports state that nasturtiums have historically been used to variously treat liver, kidney, bladder and skin disorders, and oil from the seeds can be used to varnish furniture [5,6].
Health benefits aside, if nasturtiums didn’t taste good, I wouldn’t be eating them — and that’s why I thought I would tempt you toward these edible blooms with the awesome seasonal and superfood-ful smoothie I blended up for my family on Sunday morning.
Recipe #137: The Blooming Good Smoothie. Makes enough for 2 adults and a little person.
You will need:
► 10 nasturtium flowers
► 4 tbsp of bee pollen
► 4 tbsp of lucuma powder
► 3 tbsp of hemp seeds
► 1 tbsp of white chia seeds
► 1 tbsp of maca powder
► ½-1 tsp of turmeric powder [use fresh turmeric if you can access it]
► ½ tsp of ground cinnamon
► 1 banana, skinned
► 1 sweet orange, skin removed
► the flesh from 1 young coconut
► a handful of strawberries
► about 500mL of water kefir [milk kefir or drinking yoghurt would also work well]
► agave syrup, to taste
► just enough water for everything to combine to your desired consistency
Blend all ingredients, except for the agave syrup, together until completely smooth [this will take about 60 seconds at speed 8-10 in a Thermomix]. Taste and adjust the sweetness with agave syrup if needed, then blend for another 10 seconds. Serve topped with a nasturtium flower.
Don’t fret if you don’t have all of the ingredients listed here. This recipe literally resulted from a 5 minute consultation with my fridge and pantry, and I encourage you to do the same. For example, if you do not have bee pollen, use honey, yacon syrup or coconut syrup. Use a handful of sunflower seeds instead of the hemp seeds. No maca? Leave it out. So long as you are using raw/whole/organic ingredients with low processing, the end result will be superb and supremely good for you.
All of this has awakened me to the fact that we are constantly surrounded by nutritious and even medicinal plants without necessarily being aware of it. Take a few moments to notice the plants growing in your garden or on your verge. You may be harbouring a superfood without even realising it.
- Christina (2009) “Tropaeolum (aka “Nasturtium”)” on NutsaboutPlants [online]. Available from http://nutsaboutplants.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/tropaeolum-aka-nasturtium/; accessed on 16 September 2012.
- Osbourne, G. (2012) “Once were weeds – now superfoods” on The Sydney Morning Herald: life&style [online]. Available via http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/once-were-weeds–now-superfoods-20120823-24om9.html; accessed on 16 September 2012.
- Stone, B. (2011) “Benefits of Nasturtium Herb” on Healthguideinfo.com [online]. Available via http://www.healthguideinfo.com/herbal-medicine/p95793/; accessed on 16 September 2012.
- Conrad, A., Kolberg, T., Engels, I. & Frank, U. (2006) “Abstract: In vitro study to evaluate the antibacterial activity of a combination of the haulm of nasturtium (Tropaeoli majoris herba) and of the roots of horseradish (Armoraciae rusticanae radix)” on PubMed.gov [online]. Available via http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17260672; accessed on 17 September 2012.
- abbas (2011) “Nasturtiums – Edible Flowers: History, Uses and Health Benefits of Nasturtiums: How to Make Nasturtium Salad” on Herbs-Treat and Taste [online]. Available via http://herbs-treatandtaste.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/nasturtiums-edible-flowers-history-uses.html; accessed on 17 September 2012.
- HMYG (2009) “Nasturtium for coughs, colds, flu and hair loss” on Herbal Medicine from your Garden (or Windowsill) [online]. Available via http://www.herbalmedicinefromyourgarden.com/nasturtium-health-benefits/; accessed on 17 September 2012.
Addendum of 19 September 2012:
Just discovered: a blog that is focused solely on nasturtium benefits and recipes! http://nasturtiums.wordpress.com/