Notes from Herb Heaven


Nasturtium is known to be both annual and perennial. Here in the warmth of the lowveld/bushveld it is perennial, growing very well in winter. Tropaeolum majus is a trailing, creeping plant, easily taking over the bed if not contained. Try letting it climb a wire fence.

T.minus is a dwarf variety which grows in a bush of about 30cm and can be grown in a container. Picking the flowers regularly and giving it a containing trim once in a while will produce an abundance of the edible flowers which are anything from cream, salmon, orange, yellow and red. The latter three colours are the most usual.

This useful, hardy plant grows in most places and likes sandy soil and full sun, although it also grows in dappled shade. Prepare a bed with good organic compost and sterilised animal manure. Sow the seeds in spring, 2 cm deep and 40 cm apart and keep moist. Plant a few seeds together of the trailing variety, about 80 cm apart. Once they are well established, water them once a week. Do not over fertilise or grow in very rich compost, as this results in more leaves and less flowers. Aphids love nasturtiums and attract these insects away from other plants. It is an excellent companion plant to tomatoes, mealies, apple trees, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and other brassicas. To remove aphids, hose off vigourously with a strong jet of water. If you wish to spray, try an organic insecticide.

This attractive plant also helps against depression, loss of appetite and fatigue. High in vitamin C and a natural antibiotic, nasturtium is a useful aid in fighting colds, coughs, flu and bronchitis. It is also used to treat bladder and kidney complaints. To treat bronchitis, chronic coughs and emphysema, make a tea or infusion from a quarter cup of leaves, steeped for five minutes and strained. Take a little in a sherry glass twice or three times daily.

Chew a nasturtium leaf every couple of hours if you have a sore throat. Use flowers and leaves fresh as they do not dry well. The caper-like seeds can be pickled in vinegar. Nasturtium flowers and leaves can be frozen in plastic wrap for up to 6 months. Use the leaves and attractive flowers in salads and as garnish. Mix chopped nasturtium leaves with cream cheese, spread on crackers and top with a nasturtium flower petal or two. Use the leaves and flowers in sandwiches for a healthy digestive meal.


Summer Salad

4 sliced carrots 
3 sliced spring onions
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
5 butter lettuce leaves, torn into 
bite-sized pieces
5 red lettuce leaves, torn into 
bite-sized pieces
2 large nasturtium leaves, chopped
1 T chopped parsley
1 T chopped apple mint

Mix all and serve with a vinaigrette dressing

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