Zesty Nasturtiums

Published in Healthy Options Magazine July 2009

Nasturtium dollars

Tucked away in my memory lies a happy scene which we probably all share: a patch of bright yellow and orange nasturtium flowers surrounded by their round dollar leaves. Squatting down you reach out and pick the long funnel off the back end of the flower and suck out the nectar, “Ummmm yummy,” you say as you reach out to pick another one and give it to your younger sibling (nephew, grandchild, daughter), “try that.” You watch the expression of happy surprise on the face of the child as they eagerly reach out and pick their own colorful nectar filled funnel. This simple act has occurred for generations around the globe ever since the colorful nasturtium flower was first brought back to Europe from their native habitat, the Andes. Very easy to grow and a wonderful companion plant for gardeners, the zesty Tropaeolum majus quickly circumnavigated the globe and can now be found in every country.

The multicolored flower we know as nasturtium is said to have gotten it’s name from the family Nasturtium which is a genus of the Brassicacea (cabbage) family. Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is the edible plant of this family and contains the same mustard oil (Benzyl isothiocyanate), which causes the tangy taste in the nasturtium flower. The properties and therapeutic uses of these two plants are therefore very similar. One difference is that the bright colors of the flowers also contain the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin, which we have heard a lot about over the past couple years as a highly effective free radical scavenger and cancer preventer.