Latin Name: Tropaeolum majus
Description: A creeping climbing annual plant. It grows to 60-300 cm high and can spread to several m wide with long branches. The leaves are small and round. They are light green. Leaves are 2.5-6 cm across. The edges of the leaves are wavy. The veins radiate out from the centre. It has trumpet like flowers. The flowers are orange and yellow and have a pointy piece at the back of the flower. Several ornamental varieties have been bred by hybridisation.
Notes: The garden nasturtium is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the Dot Moth and the Garden Carpet Moth. A very common “pest” found on nasturtiums is the caterpillar of the Large White (Cabbage White) Butterfly. Nasturtiums are also considered widely useful companion plants. They repel a great many cucurbit pests, like squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and several caterpillars. They have a similar range of benefits for brassica plants, especially broccoli and cauliflower. They also serve as a trap crop against black fly aphids. They also attract beneficial predatory insects.
Edibility Rating out of 5: 4
Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3
Edible Uses: Leaves – raw. A hot watercress flavour. Very nice on its own or as a flavouring in mixed salads. Rich in vitamin C. The leaves are available most of the year. Flowers – raw. A very ornamental and tasty addition to the salad bowl, the flowers have a hot watercress flavour and are available from Spring to Autumn. The flowers contain about 130mg vitamin C per 100g. Young seed pods – raw, these are even hotter than the flowers or leaves,they can be harvested whilst immature and pickled for use as a caper substitute. Seed – raw or cooked. Very hot, the mature seed can be ground into a powder and used as a pepper substitute. The seed contains 26% protein and 10% oil.
Warnings: Avoid for infants or small children and patients with gastrointestinal ulcers or kidney disease. Irritation of the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract.
Medicinal Uses: Antibacterial; Antibiotic; Antifungal; Antiseptic; Aperient; Depurative; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Expectorant; Laxative; Stimulant.
Medicinal Information: Nasturtium has long been used in Andean herbal medicine as a disinfectant and wound-healing herb, and as an expectorant to relieve chest conditions. All parts of the plant appear to be antibiotic and an infusion of the leaves can be used to increase resistance to bacterial infections and to clear nasal and bronchial catarrh. The remedy seems to both reduce catarrh formation and stimulate the clearing and coughing up of phlegm. The leaves are antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, aperient, depurative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, laxative and stimulant. A glycoside found in the plant reacts with water to produce an antibiotic. The plant has antibiotic properties towards aerobic spore forming bacteria. Extracts from the plant have anticancer activity. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of genito-urinary diseases, respiratory infections, scurvy and poor skin and hair conditions. Externally it makes an effective antiseptic wash and is used in the treatment of baldness, minor injuries and skin eruptions. Any part of the plant can be used, it is harvested during the growing season and used fresh. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium for urinary tract infections, cough, bronchitis.
Other Uses: Insecticide; Oil; Repellent.
The seeds yield a high percentage of a drying oil that can be used in making paints, varnish etc. The growing plant attracts aphids away from other plants. Research indicates that aphids flying over plants with orange or yellow flowers do not stop, nor do they prey on plants growing next to or above the flowers. An insecticide can be made from an infusion of leaves and soap flakes.