Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen
This plant from Peru can be invasive if grown unchecked. It is weedy but beautiful and grows abundantly locally. It can be overwhelming both at home and for native species in the wild, so harvesting and eating Nasturtium is a great way to help regulate its growth while adding something new to the table. Nasturtium has both edible leaves and flowers which can add color and a spicy, mustardy flavor to your salads. Nasturtium is high in vitamins A, C, and D, but also can have a heat to it that may be a bit much, so try harvesting it in shadier areas if you prefer less spiciness.
Nasturtium is pretty easy to identify with its red, orange, or yellow 5-petal flowers, with a vine-like growing pattern and round leaves with visible white veins connecting in the center.
Leaves can practically always be gathered and the flowers usually appear from July to September. Seeds ripen from August to October as well. Gather the younger leaves and flowers and wash under cold water to prepare.
Beyond adding zest to your salad, the leaves and flowers can be used in pesto, compound butters, and stir-fries as well. The flowers are also good for stuffing and the seeds can be eaten raw and used as a pepper substitute.
In the garden we use this plant mainly as a quick-growing groundcover under fruit trees in our food forests where it has room to spread out. It is a great companion plant for: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, melons, mustards, pumpkins, radishes, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and watermelon. It is also great for deterring pests like aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, wooly aphids, whiteflies, cucumber beetles and other pests of the cucurbit family. The yellow flowering variety functions especially well as a trap crop for aphids as well. Nasturtium likes poor soil with low moisture and no fertilizer, so they also do very well as a potted plant as well.
The details above were excerpted from:
- California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry
Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers
Mix 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 2 Tablespoons finely minced chives or other herbs of your choice. Stuff the mixture into nasturtium flowers and place on a tray that has been lined with nasturtium leaves. Serve at room temperature.
Nasturtium Lemon Butter
This lovely butter has a mild lemon/pepper flavor and a colorful appearance. It is wonderful on fish, chicken and vegetables. This is also great on those small party breads, pumpernickel especially.
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (according to taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium blossoms
Mix all of the ingredients well until smooth and well blended. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Makes 3/4 cup flavored butter.