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Save your seeds: Nasturtium

NASTURTIUM

Photos by Tracy Milchick

NASTURTIUM

BOTANICAL NAME: Tropaeolum majus – the genus name comes from the Latin word for trophy, an allusion to the likeness of the flowers to the helmets and shields displayed at Roman triumphs.

ORIGIN: Peru’s cool highlands.

DESCRIPTION: An annual which behaves as a perennial in warm climates. The modern breed of nasturtium is bushy with deep red, bright orange or yellow flowers.

CULTIVATION: Nasturtium flourishes in rich soils, although it can tolerate poor soils. Seedlings are difficult to transplant so it’s best to plant the seeds directly.

SAVING THE SEEDS: The spreading bushes are flowering right through the growing season and the harvesting of the seeds can be done whenever the three-lobed seed compound becomes brown and feels dry and light.

It is however possible to harvest while still green but mature enough to be fertile, as is done commercially.

As the flowers are worked by insects (which love both the nectar and pollen), only one sort of nasturtium should be grown in each garden for raising pure seeds.

STORAGE: Well-stored seeds last for three years, and are thirty to the gram.

USE: You can utilise all of this plant in your kitchen and garden. Add the flowers and young leaves to salads. You can use the green seeds (harvested after the petals have fallen) as a substitute for capers – to do this, simply pour freshly boiled vinegar into a tightly packed jar of unripe nasturtium seeds, seal the jar and store in a cool place.

Having nasturtium in your garden will deter pumpkin beetles and attract aphids, acting as a catch plant so that the pests stay in the one spot. Grow nasturtium next to brassicas to deter cabbage white butterflies.

To make an effective scalp tonic lotion, add a hundred grams of nasturtium leaves and green seeds with the same weight of nettles and macerate in half a bottle of vodka for two weeks. This concoction can also help with hair loss.

Taken from the Seed Savers Handbook by Jude and Michel Fanton (Seed Saver Network 2014)

For more on making nasturtium capers go to: www.pipmagazine.com.au/eat/nasturtium-capers-recipe/

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