Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Gather some of those nasturtiums!

Tina Sams
Sept/Oct '18 issue The Essential Herbal

First, we’ll clear up some confusion. Watercress is an aquatic plant species with the botanical name Nasturtium officinale.

Nasturtium officinale
We’ve tried growing it in the creek here, but it keeps washing downstream. It looks nothing like the plant we are talking about today, but also has a very peppery taste which is probably the root of the issue.  In fact, in England during the 1600’s, nasturtiums cultivated in the gardens, and called “Indian Cress” due to the similar peppery taste.
Today, we’re talking about Tropaeolum majus, an easy-to-grow annual whose leaves and flowers are edible. 
In fact the whole plant is edible, including the seeds!  It comes in a range of colors, from the buttery-est yellow to the most blazing scarlet.  Creamy apricot, and variegated shades of bright orange are among the shades often available, but most often they are deep orange and yellow. 
When we visited the kids in California, nasturtiums were everywhere – wild!  We first spotted them while crossing a little hollow on a foot bridge.  Looking down, the jewel tones shone up at us on what were apparently vining (in a search for light) nasturtiums.  They will grow anywhere, apparently, although for areas that freeze in winter, they are annuals.  They often, but not always, self-seed.  The phrase, “Be nasty to nasturtiums“, is sometimes used for how to care for them.  Give them lousy soil, intermittent moisture, and a little light, and they are happy.
The nasturtium plant is surprisingly useful medicinally.  The leaves, in particular, and especially before the flowers appear!  That’s good, because the flowers make a great garnish, salad ingredient (so do the leaves) or stuff them with guacamole and sit them on a nacho chip!  The whole plant is high in vitamin C, beta carotene and also contains vitamins B1, B2 and B3, as well as iron, calcium, phosphorus and manganese.  There are also an abundance of  carotenoids and flavionoids - compounds that boost the immune system and protect against carcinogens.
Nasturtium combats fungus, infection, viruses, and bacteria. Providing expectorant, and sedative, benefits. In a tincture or vinegar it provides good disinfectant properties.  In Germany, Angocin Anti-Infekt N is a prescribed antibiotic having only nasturtium and horseradish root as ingredients.  Be sure to make some tincture or vinegar this year.  Or, make and freeze some pesto.  Enjoy the many ways we’ve gathered to use them!

Nasturtium Pesto

2 c nasturtium leaves
1/2 c walnuts
4 cloves garlic
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 10 – 15 seconds. Drain and plunge into ice water to cool.  Dry on tea towels.  Place leaves, walnuts, cheese, garlic, and oil in the jar of a blender; blend until smooth. If desired, add a few drops of hot sauce.  Goes great on pasta or baked potato.  Garnish with a flower!
Perhaps a hair rinse: Mix equal parts lavender, nettle, nasturtium and rosemary into double the amount of  water by volume – if you use a cup of herbs total, use 2 cups water. Bring to boil, then turn off the heat and steep in a closed pot for 15 minutes. Allow it to cool and then strain for use. Massage into your scalp before rinsing out. Refrigerate any leftovers.
From some of our friends on the Yahoo! Group:

I make a variety of vinegars and Nasturtium Vinegar is my favorite.  It seems to go with anything.
Gather Nasturtium leaves, pretty well packed, with an occasional blossom, if desired.  Pack into a jar, add white vinegar, cover, and let set in the sun or other bright place for at least 3 weeks.  Then strain and decant into your favorite vinegar cruet.

And a dear memory:  Several years ago a friend came to visit me in the hospital.  She brought me a bouquet of Nasturtiums from her garden.  The scent lingered for a long time and I was even able to bring that scent home.  I'll always remember that incident and my friend's kindness. 

More than a few years ago, my husband and I stayed in a B & B on the Oregon coast.
When we came in the dining room for breakfast, there was a beautiful nasturtium flower set over the side of our orange juice glasses. Just a very simple thing but it was a highlight of our trip. I still try and do this in the summer when we have orange juice drinks.   Sharon Broderick

Nasturtium Raspberry Salad
Dressing:  1 T. raspberry jam or jelly
           1/4 c  white wine vinegar
           1/3 c olive oil
           salt and pepper to taste
   Whisk jam, vinegar and oil together.  Add salt and pepper, to taste

Salad:   Red and green leaf lettuces
              Thinly sliced red onion
              Fresh raspberries
              Freshly gathered Nasturtium blossoms
   Combine the lettuces, red onion slices, and some raspberries.  Gently toss.  Top with more raspberries and the nasturtium blossoms.  Serve with the dressing on the side.
Note:  Blueberry Jam for the dressing, and fresh blueberries also make a delicious salad!
Mary Ellen Wilcox

Nasturtium Cheese Blend
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped nasturtium flowers
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
Crackers or snack rye bread
In a bowl, beat the cream cheese, nasturtium flowers and horseradish until well blended. Serve with crackers or bread. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.

Egg Salad with Herbs
For a beautiful presentation, serve this on a plate lined with nasturtium leaves, garnished with whole flowers, fresh snipped chives and/or dill sprigs. A fresh loaf of crusty, country-style bread is the best accompaniment; however rye or pumpernickel bread, pitas or thinly sliced bagels are good, too. Makes 6 servings.
 12 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons chopped sweet pickles
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions or minced onion
1/3 cup finely diced celery
2 tablespoons snipped chives, divided
2 tablespoons snipped dill leaves, divided
1/2  teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 to 12 nasturtium flowers, julienned
10 to 12 nasturtium leaves, julienned
12 large whole nasturtium leaves
6 to 12 whole nasturtium flowers
Dice eggs and place in a bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, chopped pickles, pickle juice, onions, celery, 1 tablespoon chives, 1 tablespoon dill leaves, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss well to blend. Stir in shredded nasturtium leaves and flowers. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

To serve, let salad stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Arrange nasturtium leaves on a platter and heap egg salad on top. Garnish with whole nasturtium flowers and remaining chives and dill, and serve immediately.
Marcy Lautanen Raleigh www.backyardpatch.blogspot.com

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