Yellow and orange nasturtium flowers fight for sunlight in a densely packed patch of their garden, circular leaves in a garden bed on April 14. | Photo by Chelsea Wood

Before You Forage: Nasturtiums

Pretty flowers offer a punch packed with nutrition

Pretty flowers offer a punch packed with nutrition

Foraging for your own sustenance is both rewarding and enjoyable. With grocery store shelves low on most necessities like fruits and vegetables, you can still find satisfying snacks out in nature.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, nasturtiums are a type of flowering herbaceous plant in the tropaeolaceae family. These green, circular-leaved and orange, red or yellow-petaled plants are edible flowers and foliage.

While nasturtiums may be hard to find in the wild as they’re native to Central and South America, they can easily grow in home gardens just about anywhere.

Early spring is the perfect time to start cultivating your own nasturtiums, and you can simply order seeds online to get started. Nasturtium seeds, when dry, look like tiny, brown walnut shells with wrinkled surfaces. When fresh, they are pale green and have a slightly smoother texture. Fresh seeds are edible as well and often pickled and used as caper substitutes.

A great way to prepare nasturtium for your first taste is in a salad with cucumbers, mandarin oranges and spinach with a light vinaigrette dressing.

Once fully grown and blossomed, the sprawling, vine-like nasturtium plant offers a bounty of vitamin C if consumed. Not only are these plants aesthetically pleasing, the amount of nutritional value packed into the entire nasturtium is astounding, as they contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, and magnesium, iron and calcium.

This plant has a peppery, mustard-like taste and can be used as an alternative to potent arugula leaves or mustard greens in salads. You can eat the whole plant, which is said to be similar to the taste of watercress.

A great way to prepare nasturtium for your first taste is in a salad with cucumbers, mandarin oranges and spinach with a light vinaigrette dressing. Or if you’re bold enough, try the leaves and petals on their own after a thorough rinse.

Beyond the beauty and nutrition of nasturtiums, this plant also offers antibiotic and antibacterial properties. These plants are by no means a way to cure colds, the flu or COVID-19, but can offer slight relief. Nevertheless, according to a study published in the Open Microbiology Journal, these plants were found to contain antimicrobial effects and can be safely used in the food industry as an antibacterial oil on foodborne bacteria.

So get your hands on some nasturtium seeds and get to planting. Soon you’ll have a garden full of the edible and nutritional plant.

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