Nasturtium is an annual that you can grow for pretty foliage, climbing cover, and pretty flowers, but it can also be eaten. Both the flowers and leaves of the nasturtium are tasty eaten raw and fresh. Harvesting nasturtium plants as food is easy, as long as you know a few simple tips.
Edible Nasturtium Flowers and Leaves
Many people assume it is the leaves that are edible, like an herb or salad green, but you can use the flowers too, for culinary decoration and for eating. Both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery, spicy flavor and add a bite to green salads.
They can also be used in cooked dishes, but should be added in the last few minutes to avoid overcooking. Both the flowers and leaves, chopped, can be used in vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips. You can even stuff the larger leaves, like you would grape leaves. Use the flowers to decorate desserts too.
How to Harvest Edible Nasturtiums
Picking nasturtiums to eat is as simple as plucking off flowers and leaves as needed throughout the growing season. Flowers can be eaten as buds or when in full bloom, but the leaves have the best flavor when young and tender, so pick off newer growth for culinary uses. The flavor of the plant will actually get spicier as the day wears on, so pick early for milder tastes and later in the day for more kick.
The flowers are great for eating but also for decorating. The flowers wilt quickly, however, so cut the plants with long stems and store them in a glass of water, just like with any cut flowers. You can use them later in the day, or store them in water in the refrigerator for use the next day. The sooner you use them, though, the fresher they will look.
Your nasturtiums will taste best under the right growing conditions. If the plant gets stressed, the flavor will be off-putting. Fortunately, it’s easy to grow nasturtiums. They prefer full sun to a little bit of shade. Soil should be well drained and not overly fertile. Keep your plants adequately watered, especially when it is hot outside, to avoid the stress that changes the flavor of the leaves and blooms.
Eating nasturtiums is a great way to add a little exotic flavor to your ordinary dishes, and also a great way to make your flower beds do double duty. These flowers are gorgeous in beds, climbing trellises, and in containers, and they provide food for your vegetable drawer.