Want to feel like a catering pro this summer? Grow Nasturtiums and turn ordinary meals into elegant summertime celebrations. Just imagine these presentations.....Orange and mahogany blossoms of Alaska Nasturtiums floating languidly in a bowl of chilled vichyssoise (aka cold cream of potato and leek soup). A cheese platter transformed into a work of art with a sprinkling of crimson Empress of India Nasturtiums. Individual panna cottas in a pool of raspberry coulis, topped with a single Black Velvet Nasturtium flower. Garden salads energized with a handful of peppery Milkmaid or Peach Melba Nasturtiums. Did you know that the blue-green, lily-pad foliage is just as edible as the flowers? The leaves work perfectly as edible hors d’oeuvre plates. There’s no end to the fun that you can have with these beautiful, delicate multitaskers.
Beautiful and Delicious
Nasturtiums are just as valuable in the garden as they are in the kitchen. Their flowers and lush, deep blue-green foliage are gorgeous in window boxes, herb gardens, vegetable gardens, patio containers, hanging baskets and flower borders. On an early fall morning, you might even think your garden has been adorned with sparkling diamonds. On closer inspection, you’ll find plump, glistening rain drops balanced perfectly on Nasturtium leaves. It’s a rare and beautiful sight. On a practical note, Nasturtiums are said to deter cucumber beetles, whiteflies and squash bugs. They’re also used as “trap plants” for aphids, which are attracted to their juicy stems. Bees and hummingbirds adore feasting on the Nasturtium’s colorful, nectar-rich flowers.
Easy to Grow Nasturtiums
Botanically known as Tropaeolum majus, Nasturtiums are native to Central and South America where they grow wild without the least bit of attention, and flower profusely from early summer until the first fall frost. Nasturtiums actually perform better in soil that’s lean rather than rich. (If the plants have too much, easy access to nitrogen they will produce a sea of foliage and few flowers.) Choose a spot with well-draining soil and full or half-day sun. Sow the seeds directly into the garden once any threat of spring frost has passed. You may find your reliable Frost-Free Date by using a chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Go HERE and select your State from the pull down menu. This will generate a PDF file with a list of NOAA data collection sites in your State. In the left column, choose the location nearest or most similar to where you live. Then read across. Use the middle threshold number (32°F) and right next to it, in the Spring column, will be the 50% probability date. This is your all-important average Frost-Free Date. You may also start the seeds indoors up to five weeks before settling them into the garden. Make sure to harden off the seedlings before planting by gradually exposing them to the outdoors over a week to 10 days.
The only difficult part about growing Nasturtiums is choosing which ones to grow. You may select from among our compact, mounding varieties including Black Velvet, Empress of India, Milkmaid, Peach Melba and our special Alaska Nasturtium Mixture which has variegated foliage and flowers that include gold, orange, salmon and mahogany. Or, you may try our Old-Fashioned Tawny Nasturtium Mixture for dense, trellis-climbing displays of orange, yellow and scarlet flowers. Trying all of them is an even better idea!
Other fabulous direct-sow edible flowers and herbs include: Bachelor's Buttons, Basil, Bee Balm Monarda, Borage, Calendula, Chamomile, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Marigolds, Pepperbox Breadseed Poppies and St. John's Wort.