Thursday, 26 May 2016


“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” - Luther Burbank

Tropaeolum commonly known as nasturtium (meaning “nose-twister” or “nose-tweaker”), is a genus of roughly 80 species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants. It was named by Carl Linnaeus and is the only genus in the family Tropaeolaceae. The nasturtiums received their common name because they produce an oil that is similar to that of watercress (Nasturtium officinale). The genus Tropaeolum, native to South and Central America, includes several very popular garden plants, the most commonly grown being T. majus, T. peregrinum and T. speciosum. Plants in this genus have showy, often intensely bright flowers, and rounded, peltate (shield-shaped) leaves with the petiole in the centre.

The first Tropaeolum species was imported into Spain by the Spanish botanist Nicolás Monardes. He published an account in 1569 entitled Joyful News out of the Newe Founde Worlde in which he described, among other things, the plants and animals discovered in South America. The English herbalist John Gerard reports having received seeds of the plant from Europe in his 1597 book Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes.

Tropaeolum majus was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who chose the genus name because the plant reminded him of an ancient custom. After victory in battle, the Romans used to set up a trophy pole called a tropaeum (from the Greek tropaion, source of English “trophy”). On this the armour and weapons of the vanquished foe were hung. Linnaeus was reminded of this by the plant as the round leaves resembled shields and the flowers, blood-stained helmets. Nasturtiums were once known commonly as “Indian cresses” because they were introduced from the Americas, known popularly then as the Indies, and used like cress as salad ingredients.

All parts of Tropaeolum majus are edible. The flower has most often been consumed, making for an especially ornamental salad ingredient; it has a slightly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress, and is also used in stir-fry. The flowers contain about 130 mg vitamin C per 100 grams, about the same amount as is contained in parsley. Moreover, they contain up to 45 mg of lutein per 100 g, which is the highest amount found in any edible plant. The unripe seed pods can be harvested and dropped into spiced vinegar to produce a condiment and garnish, sometimes used in place of capers. Mashua (T. tuberosum) produces an edible underground tuber that is a major food source in parts of the Andes.

Nasturtiums have been used in herbal medicine for their antiseptic and expectorant qualities. They are said to be good for chest colds and to promote the formation of new blood cells. T. majus has been used in herbal medicine for respiratory and urinary tract infections. Nasturtiums are used as companion plants for biological pest control, repelling some pests, acting as a trap crop for others and attracting predatory insects that get rid of pests.

Nasturtium Salad
Seasonal greens (e.g. baby spinach leaves, rocket, mignonette lettuce, beetroot greens, etc)
Carrot, shaved thinly
Radishes, shaved thinly
Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Any other ingredients you fancy to make this salad your own! (cherry tomatoes, walnut halves, shaved parmesan, etc)
Simple mustard vinaigrette (3 parts olive oil, 1 part white wine vinegar, 1/2 part French mustard)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Prepare vinaigrette by blending all ingredients together until well mixed. Reserve until ready to serve salad and only then drizzle over the vegetables.

In a salad bowl mix together all the washed and drained ingredients except the nasturtium flowers. When serving, pour vinaigrette over the salad and garnish with the flowers.

1 comment:

  1. It is a lovely photo of a delicious salad. You did a lot of research for this blog. . . very interesting info. I'm going to try your vinaigrette recipe because I am never satisfied with mine. I have been told that I should take care when using flowers in salads to be sure that, if they are commercial, that chemicals have not been used on them. Guess it is better to grow from seeds.