Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nasturtiums!





More because of their round leaves than their bright flowers, I have always loved nasturtiums. Every leaf is a little different, never perfectly round. They remind me of sand dollars or water lily pads. Reading about nasturtiums on Wikipedia, I learned that the correct terminology for such leaves is "peltate", meaning shield-shaped. Nasturtiums are native to South and Central America.

They do well in Houston in the spring before the insufferable humid heat of summer arrives,or can be planted in the fall for color over mild winters. This year I used a variety pack of seeds from Renee's Garden, not really thinking about what that meant. While most of the plants come in at 6 - 12", others have yet to reach their final dimensions, displaying viney qualities I never knew were possible. One vine in the backyard is crawling over a 8' tall lemon tree, and that's not including its place of origin in a large pot, so possibly it is as long as 14'. Monster nasturtiums! Plus they are making lots of seeds, so maybe next year I can cover the planet in nasturtiums.

This intriguing flower and its leaves are edible, but a bit spicy, and are best pulled apart into small pieces and mixed in with sweeter greens. I've never put them on a cake but maybe I will this Easter as I certainly have plenty to spare. I've just learned that the seeds can be used as a substitute for capers. They are also great companion flowers as they repel various insects such as cucumber beetles. That's it for my quick roundup on all things nasturtium... If you are a gardener, happy spring planting and let's hope for an easy summer ahead!

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