Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Incredible, Edible Nasturtium

A native of South America, the nasturtium was first introduced to Europe when conquistadors brought it along on their return to Spain in the 1500s. Being high in Vitamin C, Indians in Peru make a tea of the leaves to treat coughs, colds and flu. The flowers are slightly peppery and the leaves can be used as greens in salads. During World War II, when black pepper was in short supply, the dried seeds were ground as a substitute. It is an easily grown plant that self sows, with lily pad leaves and intensely bright, abundant flowers. It thrives in full sun or dappled shade and all parts of the plant are edible. Once established, this carefree annual will return season after season.

The oil painting of nasturtiums is by Adelaide Coburne Palmer, circa 1907.

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