Nasturtium grows best in zones 9-11. The plant needs full sun or partial shade, and is suited to (light) sandy or (medium) loamy soil, with a pH level between 6.1-7.8. Nasturtium seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep and 1 ft apart in well-drained and moist soil. The plant reaches a height of 9-16 inches, but the climbing height can be as tall as 15 feet. It is also sensitive to frost. If the soil is too sandy, add compost in order to increase the moisture. Do not add more nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil because it encourages more foliage to grow and less flowers. Keep the plant well-watered and remove any weeds that grow near it. The flowers attract aphids, so spray it with water occasionally to remove them. If growth begins to decline in summer heat, then cut the plant and allow it to regrow in cooler temperatures. (1) Nasturtiums improves growth and flavor when planted next to cabbages, radishes, and fruit trees. Naturally wards off insects, especially aphids. It attracts snails and slugs so it can be used to lure them away from other plants.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Nasturtium is primarily used for its medicinal properties. The name of nasturtium is derived from the Latin term nasus tortus ("twisted nose") because it was used to relieve people of nasal and chest congestion. It has also been used to treat baldness. Raw leaves are used in salads. The flowers are also edible and have a peppery tang. The flowers are also high in Vitamin A, C, and D. Seeds can be ground and is often used to replace pepper in recipes. (2)
Significance to Cultural Communities
Nasturtium originated in central and south America. Andean people use nasturtium as a disinfectant for wounds. (2) Nasturtium used to be known as Indian cress and were popular after being displayed in the palace flowerbeds of French king Louis XIV. While nasturtium was used widely throughout Europe, over time people began to cultivate smaller, more neat varieties which paralleled the shift from conceptualizing them as edible flowers to ornamental landscapes (3). Most recently however they are grown in modern urban gardens both because of the edible flowers but also as a natural insect repellent.
1. Nardozzi, C. (n.d.). Edible of the Month: Nasturtium. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from National Gardening Association website: http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=august_edible
2. Tropaeolum majus. (2010, August 19). Retrieved September 26, 2013, from Plants for a Future website: http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Tropaeolum+majus
3. “Nasturtium.” Vectis Road Allotments. http://www.veraveg.org/Veg%20History/Veg%20History%20Nasturtium.html