Halgrimson: Go ahead and nibble the nasturtiums

It was an afternoon yard party in late summer at the home of friends. Guests wandered about, enjoying food and drink and admiring summer's last blooms. As I perused the garden, I noticed a lovely patch of nasturtiums, picked several leaves and be...

Nasturtiums are edible flowers that add a peppery flavor to a variety of dishes. Forum file photo

It was an afternoon yard party in late summer at the home of friends.

Guests wandered about, enjoying food and drink and admiring summer's last blooms. As I perused the garden, I noticed a lovely patch of nasturtiums, picked several leaves and began eating them.

My host, standing nearby, was not amused. He's a psychologist. Not much amuses those guys.

And I wasn't trying to be amusing. I knew the flowers were good to eat, and I wanted to taste them. What I didn't know was how to grow them.

After I convinced him that nasturtiums were not poisonous, he told me nasturtiums don't like rich soil. He also told me to add a little sand to the nasturtium bed, and they will thrive.


My nasturtiums now flourish all summer long, usually in hanging pots. I enjoy their beauty, and the excellent flavors they provide.

Nasturtiums are delectable with a sharp peppery taste and are rich in vitamin C. The flowers are native to South America, and all parts of the plant, except the root, are edible.

The jewel-like yellow, gold, orange and red blossoms are lovely in bouquets. And the blooms can be stuffed with a savory filling for hors d'oeuvre trays.

Nasturtiums are also known as Indian cress and are related to watercress, which is related to mustard - all part of a delicious family.

Add nasturtium flowers and leaves to butter, mayonnaise, soup, cream cheese spread, deviled eggs, scrambled eggs, egg salad, tossed salad, salad dressing and sauces. My friend and former student, Forum food writer Sue Doeden, brought me a bottle of nasturtium wine vinegar recently. It is superb.

Some sources suggest taking a potted nasturtium inside to use as an herb in the winter, but I don't know if those sources had in mind the brief daylight hours during northern winters. I'll try it next winter.

Nasturtium Capers

1 quart young, green nasturtium seed pods


1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon dill seed

1 clove garlic, crushed

Pack nasturtium seed pods into sterilized canning jars. In a noncorrosive pan, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, celery seed, dill seed and garlic. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Strain vinegar liquid, bring to a boil again and pour over seed pods. Seal canning jars tightly and store for two weeks before using.


Nasturtium Potato Salad

3 large potatoes (enough to make 3 cups) peeled and sliced

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons minced nasturtiums

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pinch of chopped fresh parsley

Pinch of chopped fresh chives

Pinch of chopped fresh tarragon


6 tablespoons dry white wine

1/4 cup beef broth

3 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Boil potatoes, cool slightly and peel. Slice into a bowl and add onion, nasturtiums, salt, pepper, parsley, chives and tarragon. In a small jar,

combine wine, broth, oil and mayonnaise. Shake well and pour over salad. Toss gently and chill. Line platter with nasturtium leaves, add potato salad and garnish with blooms. Serves 4.

Nasturtium Soup

3 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced


5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups water

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup fresh nasturtium flowers, chopped

1 cup fresh nasturtium leaves, chopped


1 cup light cream

In a heavy soup pot, sauté leeks and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until they are tender. Do not brown. Add remaining butter and some broth. Stir in flour and cook gently for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Slowly add remaining broth, water and seasonings. Heat almost to boiling and simmer for several minutes to blend flavors. Add nasturtium leaves and flowers and simmer for another few minutes. Slowly pour in cream and heat gently. Never boil a cream soup, or it will curdle. Four servings.

Nasturtium Sandwiches

1 package cream cheese (3 ounces)

2 to 3 nasturtium flowers, chopped

1 or 2 nasturtium leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Have cream cheese at room temperature. Cream ingredients together until light and fluffy. Spread on thinly sliced pumpernickel bread and serve immediately as spread becomes bitter if allowed to stand.

Sources: ; Adapted from "The Flower Cookbook" by Adrienne Crowhurst; "The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery" by Leona Woodring Smith

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at

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