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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

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Season: Spring, Summer & Early Fall


There are two different groups of plants called nasturtium. Both are common.


Watercress: (Nasturtium officinale):

Urban, Rural or Both: Rural mainly - if found within cites, be careful of water quality

The Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is the green you can buy in a grocery store. A great, peppery tasting green good for almost any use in cooking. Most people just know this one as the Watercress. Like mustard and radish, it is in the family Brassicaceae - they all have a peppery quality to the taste. It is an aquatic to semi-aquatic plant - in shallow water or where the ground is wet. Watercress can harbour parasites if grown in the presence of manure, and streams and rivers often have some farm runoff. For this reason I strongly suggest never eating it raw - regardless of where you find it, and that includes grocery stores.

Watercress can be found in alkaline wet areas. Although native to Europe and Asia, it can often be found in the wild. Where you find shallow water on chalky, limestone soils, there is a good chance you will find some. It is also found where you find cool, moving, shallow water, but not where the water is acidic such as streams in conifer forests on rocks like granite that cannot neutralize the acidity.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

If you have the right conditions in your yard, buy some seed and plant. By the way, Never use manure on this plant - it can harbor parasites that come from the manure.


Description:

Watercress: (Nasturtium officinale) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.



Garden Nasturtium: (Tropaeolum majus).


Urban, Rural or Both: Urban mainly - planted flower gardens


The plant most people think of when the hear the name Nasturtium, is the Garden Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus). It is the one you see in gardens with the lily pad shaped leaves and the yellow, orange or red flowers.

The leaves of the plant are good in a salad, giving a peppery taste like watercress. The flowers and pickled unripe seed pods are edible, and there is an entry in the "Flower Edibles" section here.

This is not a plant that is native to Eastern North America, but it is planted as an ornamental all over, and is a good plant to put in a vegetable garden with any plant from the Cabbage family (Brassicaceae) and Pumpkins, Squash and Zucchini (the Cucurbita family) as it deters pests that are a problem for both. Helps the garden stay bug free, looks great, and you can eat it. How cool is that?

This plant has three unusual features. One, a drop of water on the leaf will form a flat bottomed sphere. Two, In the evening, look at the flower of an orange one, and you may see flashes of light. This is called the "Elizabeth Linnæus Phenomenon. Third, the stems are sensitive to touch, and will bend toward what touches them, or what they touch. They use this to wrap around other materials to get height.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

A good plant to put in a vegetable garden with any plant from the Cabbage family (Brassicaceae) and Pumpkins, Squash and Zucchini (the Cucurbita family) as it deters pests that are a problem for both. It looks great, and it produces a lot of flowers and seed pods. A really great plant to have.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Nasturtium page.


Description:

Garden Nasturtium: (Tropaeolum majus) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


nasturtium

This is the Garden Nasturtium most are familiar with as a flower garden plant.


nasturtium leaf close

The leafs make a great salad green giving a gentle peppery taste with a nice texture. Hard to mistake this plant with anything else. If you want to be absolutely sure, put a couple of drops of water on the leaf. The water will bead into a flat bottomed sphere.





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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
Disclaimer


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