Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
Nasturtium Flowers and Unripe Seed Pods
Season: Late Spring, Summer & Fall Until Frost
Urban, Rural or Both: Urban mainly
I am referring to the Garden Nasturtium flowers and unripe seed pods of (Tropaeolum majus), not the Watercress (Nasturtium officinale). Go to the Nasturtium entry in "Leaves and Greens" here for more information. This is not a plant that is native to Eastern North America, but it is planted as an ornamental all over.
Garden Nasturtium: (Tropaeolum majus). Sometimes also called the Indian Cress or Monks Cress. This is the plant you see in gardens with the lily pad shaped leaves and the yellow, orange or red flowers. 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. Hard to claim this is a wild plant, but it has naturalized in areas of Eastern North America having escaped gardens. And, Dandelions are not native either, but people think they are a wild plant. So on that logic, I'm going to include them. Besides, they are a good, edible green and flower, and make a good companion plant.
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.
Using: The yellow, orange or red flowers are great raw in a salad, making it look nice and giving a peppery taste. Since you shouldn't eat Watercress raw (it can harbor parasites from animal manure that may find its way into the water it is growing in), this makes a great substitute. They can also be used like pumpkin, squash or zucchini flowers deep fried in batter.
The unripe seed pods, pickled in salt and vinegar, are great on salads or cooked in with tomato sauces. They are a good substitute for capers with their peppery, spicy taste.
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.
- Plant Size: Has trailing stems that can grow to 1.5 meters (5 feet) long. Leaves of plant can be up to 30 cm (12 inches) off the ground
- Duration: Annual
- Leaf Shape: Peltate, circular
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: Alternate
- Leaf Size: 3-15 cm (1 1/5 to 6 inches) diameter
- Leaf Margin: Entire (smooth) to shallow, rounded lobes
- Flowers: Bright orange, yellow or red. Five petals. 2.56 cm (1 to 2 1/3 inches) diameter
- Fruit: Single seeded, 2 cm (3/4 inch) wide, three-segmented fruit.
- Habitat: Originally from the foot-hills of the Andes in Peru, now found in flower gardens all over Eastern North America, and catching on as a companion plant in vegetable gardens.
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
Edible, beautiful & peppery to the taste.
There are red flowers too. They all taste about the same.
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