Saturday, May 30, 2020

NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum)

It is just by chance that this months post on Nasturtium follows the last one on watercress. It is very interesting to note that the scientific name for watercress is nasturtium!  It is thought that the flowering Nasturtium of today's post got its name because it has a peppery taste that is very similar to that of watercress.

I have lovely memories of Nasturtium growing wild on sandy banks in the summer while spending  time at seaside towns in New Zealand.  A few times I have tried to grow it here in Hawaii with poor results. However my last attempt gave a big bright show of color in my garden and I was enjoying picking the leaves for salads and giving the grandchildren flowers to eat when suddenly the plant just withered on me.  It is only from advice given on a Facebook  Hawaii garden group that I now understand the root of my problems.  I had thought of the plant as a summer plant while here in Hawaii it needs to be treated like other "greens," such as lettuce, and grown in the cool months of winter. When the recent hot weather arrived my spring sown Nasturtium just gave up the ghost!  Lesson learned, and I shall look forward to having it as a regular crop in the winter now.

Nasturtium is native to South America and was introduced to Europe by the Spanish.  It is an annual that is easily grown in place from seeds.  It is another tough plant that you do not have to fuss over and will grow in marginal soils.  Its wonderful variety of flower colors, ranging from creams to orange to ruby red, make it a cheerful addition to the garden.  Although the lightly scented flowers look fragile, they will stay good in a small vase for a few days.

Of course the fun thing about Nasturtium is not only its good looks but that we can also eat its leaves and flowers.  The lily pad looking leaves will perk up a salad or stir fry and the flowers are the edible decoration on top.  The young seed pods can also be pickled.  Nasturtium is high in vitamin C and also in lutein which is very good for your eye health.

Thankfully, the lock downs are starting to be lifted here and in many other countries as we move on from the corona virus pandemic.  Safer still at home but I am ready to start spreading my wings after being a homebody these past few months  As I bike around my community I see many new instances of home vegetable gardening happening.  One family has almost a self sustaining farm in their front yard now.  Others have new containers or garden beds of herbs and greens next to the house or a new taro patch in the back yard.  This pandemic has given us a reminder that we need to be more self sufficient and has also given the time at home to do the work.  Sometimes we need a good nudge to make changes.


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