Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) has peppery-tasting, flat, circular leaves that resemble water lily pads and colourful, open trumpet-shaped blossoms, each ending in a curved, cone-shaped tip that’s slightly sweet and peppery. Nasturtium means “nose twist,” referring to its sharp, biting flavour.

Although unrelated botanically, nasturtium is often grouped with cresses because their flavours and uses are similar, and in fact, the botanical name for watercress is Nasturtium officinale. The colourful, edible, though fragile nasturtium blossoms may be found in colours such as tangerine, salmon, gold, deep red mahogany, scarlet, and cherry red; some are speckled. The young fresh leaves and flowers give bite to savoury foods, and the unripe seed pods are pickled as an inexpensive substitute for capers; though larger than capers, they’re just as tasty. In Europe and North America, nasturtium is combined with cottage cheese, butter, or cream cheese as a filling for tea sandwiches.

Other Names
Kappertjie (South Africa Afrikaans); Blomkarse (Norwegian); blomsterkarse or kapuciner karse (Danish); cappuccina, nasturzio del Perù, or nasturzio indiano (Italian); capuchina, espuela de Galán, or nasturcia (Spanish); capucienerkers (Dutch); capucine or cresson d’Inde (French); chaga seca (Portuguese); common nasturtium; garden nasturtium; indejskij kress, kaputsin-kress, or nasturtsiya (Russian); Indian cress; indiankrasse (Swedish); indische kresse or kapuzinerkresse (German); kova ha-nazir (Hebrew); ladan (Farsi); lâtin çiçeği (Turkish); nabatu al-kabbusin (Arabic)
The plants flower in mid to late summer. The leaves are best when they’re young, early in late spring.
Purchase and Avoid
Nasturtium is always used fresh. Choose lively, brightly coloured blossoms without shriveling or brown edges. To avoid pesticides, buy blossoms packaged for eating or garnishing, or from a farmers’ market.
The blossoms are quite fragile and will keep 1 to 2 days at most after picking. For best results, arrange flowers in a single layer on dampened paper towels and enclose in plastic before refrigerating.
Culinary Uses
Eating Nasturtiums
Food Affinities
  • butter

  • cream cheese

  • eggs

  • fish

  • lemon

  • peas

  • salmon

  • shallot

  • tuna

  • watercress

  • vinegar

  • ricotta cheese

Growing Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are easy to grow; choose a well-drained site with soil that is not too rich in nitrogen (since too much nitrogen results in lots of foliage, but fewer blooms). Add compost in very sandy soil, though, to help hold moisture. In areas with cool summers, nasturtiums grow well in full sun, but in hot summer areas, afternoon shade and plenty of moisture give best results. Press the large seeds directly into the ground after no more frost is expected and the soil is warmed up. After nasturtiums are established, they will self-seed prolifically.

Category: Spices and Herbs

Sub Category: Herb