Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus - L.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Seed.

Edible Uses: Condiment.

Leaves - raw. A hot watercress flavour. Very nice on its own or as a flavouring in mixed salads. Rich in vitamin C. The leaves are available from early summer until the first frosts of the autumn. Flowers - raw. A very ornamental and tasty addition to the salad bowl, the flowers have a hot watercress flavour and are available all through the summer. The flowers contain about 130mg vitamin C per 100g. Seeds - raw or cooked. These are even hotter than the flowers or leaves. They can also be harvested whilst immature and pickled for use as a caper substitute. The mature seed can be ground into a powder and used as a pepper substitute. The seed contains 26% protein and 10% oil.

Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial; Antibiotic; Antifungal; Antiseptic; Aperient; Depurative; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Expectorant; Laxative; Stimulant.

Nasturtium has long been used in Andean herbal medicine as a disinfectant and wound-healing herb, and as an expectorant to relieve chest conditions. All parts of the plant appear to be antibiotic and an infusion of the leaves can be used to increase resistance to bacterial infections and to clear nasal and bronchial catarrh. The remedy seems to both reduce catarrh formation and stimulate the clearing and coughing up of phlegm. The leaves are antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, aperient, depurative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, laxative and stimulant. A glycoside found in the plant reacts with water to produce an antibiotic. The plant has antibiotic properties towards aerobic spore forming bacteria. Extracts from the plant have anticancer activity. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of genito-urinary diseases, respiratory infections, scurvy and poor skin and hair conditions. Externally it makes an effective antiseptic wash and is used in the treatment of baldness, minor injuries and skin eruptions. Any part of the plant can be used, it is harvested during the growing season and used fresh.

Other Uses

Insecticide; Oil; Repellent, Mulch.

The seeds yield a high percentage of a drying oil that can be used in making paints, varnish etc. The growing plant attracts aphids away from other plants. Research indicates that aphids flying over plants with orange or yellow flowers do not stop, nor do they prey on plants growing next to or above the flowers. The whole plant is a very good mulch, with a good variety of minerals and nutrients. An insecticide can be made from an infusion of leaves and soap flakes.

Cultivation details

Tolerates most soils, though it prefers a rich light well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. More and lusher leaves are produced when the plant is growing in a rich soil, though less flowers are produced. When grown in a soil of low fertility the leaves are smaller and less lush, though more flowers are produced. The plant will also succeed in very poor soils. A climbing plant, it supports itself by twisting its leaf stalks around other plants etc. A good companion plant in the garden, growing well with radishes, cabbages and fruit trees, improving their growth and flavour. A good companion for many plants, keeping many harmful insects at bay and also improving the growth and flavour of neighbouring crops. Aphids on nasturtiums indicate a lime deficiency in the soil. The caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly can be a nuisance and often cause considerable damage to the leaves.

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