Chicago gardeners, when growing nasturtium, grow it in quantity because this lovely plant is completely edible and delicious. The peppery tasting flowers and leaves are rich in Vitamin C and delightful in salads. The seeds can be pickled and substituted for capers.
Nasturtium belongs to the family TROPACOLACEAE, or geranium family. Nearly 90 species of this family of annuals and perennials exist. Native to the mountainous areas of Central and South America, it’s been used as an Andean herbal medicine for centuries to disinfect and promote wound healing and help chest conditions. All parts of the plant destroy harmful bacteria, but these antibodies haven’t been identified.
This herbaceous plant includes bushy, climbing and trailing species. Rounded, saucer-like green leaves grow on long, leaf stems that attach themselves to fences, walls and arbors. The trumpet-shaped flowers have noticeable spears. These attractive flowers are colored yellow, orange, red, white or reddish brown, depending on the variety. The flowers and leaves taste like watercress, which is an aquatic member of this family.
Follow planting instructions carefully because some nasturtiums prefer well-drained, average soil, while others favor poor soils. Water the plants generously and use fertilizer every month. Reduce the amount of water as the leaves start to wither. Perennials T. azureum and T. tricolorum become dormant in the summer and begin to grow in early fall; sprinkle them lightly in fall and winter. T. Alaska Series, a bushy, dwarf annual, grows well in Chicago.
Allow trailing and climbing nasturtium to cover bare areas in your garden or attach themselves to arbors and fences. Fill flower beds and containers with bush varieties or grow them in an herb or vegetable garden.
Decorate your garden and table with lovely, edible nasturtium.
Live long and well—garden.
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