Every year in our garden, one or two crops really thrive. It tends to vary from year-to-year. Two years ago, it was tomatillos, which was a very good problem to have. I must have canned 20+ pints of salsa verde. Last year, with the cooler temps, our chard did really well, but the nasturtiums that we planted along the borders of the beds were the crop that really took off. Grant was a little ticked because, despite their many garden benefits, we don’t typically eat nasturtiums. Well, that changed last year when we had nastturiums coming out of our ears. I’ve always planted nasturtiums in the garden because they’re beneficial for all sorts of reasons.
I guess people always used to eat nasturtiums regularly and grew them as just another green. I don’t know when we began to think of them as more ornamental in nature versus being edible, as well, but we’ve been missing out! Here are just a few health benefits of nasturtiums:
- Nasturtiums have andti-microbial and antibiotic qualities, so naturopaths encourage people to eat 1-2 leaves at the onset of a sore throat or other cold symptoms to minimize symptoms.
- Because of their antibiotic properties, some people use the leaves as a compress on cuts and bruises.
- Nasturtiums, both the leaves and flowers, are very high in Vitamin C and contain Vitamins B1, B2, B3, as well as iron, calcium, phosphorus and manganese. Wowzers!
The leaves are great in salads – I roll the leaves and chiffonade them. They have a bit of a bite, almost like a mild radish. I wouldn’t want to eat them exclusively in salads, but they’re delicious with a mix of greens. You can eat the flowers too, which make a pretty addition to your salads. Nasturtiums are a close relative to the also super healthy water cress, so you can use the nasturtium leaves like you would water cress (sandwiches perhaps?).
Our favorite way to eat them so far is in a very simple little pesto. As a bonus, this pesto freezes beautifully, so we ate it all winter long (especially if some cold symptoms show up). I’m posting this recipe now in hopes of you adding some nasturtiums to your garden this year.
- 4 cups nasturtium leaves
- 2 cups nasturtium flowers
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups walnuts or pumpkin seeds
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (or leave out cheese if you would prefer a dairy free version)
- Thoroughly wash and spin the leaves and flowers.
- Dump all of the ingredients into your food processor, puree to desired consistency.
- I like to freeze my pesto in ice cube trays and then use it in salad dressings, on pasta, or as an easy appetizer as crostini.
Adapted from Garden Betty.