Nasturtium “Empress of India” – and Recipe

Nasturtium is a popular annual in zone 5 and I’ve grown it a few times in the garden. It is super easy to grow, flowers constantly, and as a bonus – it’s edible!

A couple of years ago I grew a number of different kinds of nasturtium in the veggie patch along with corn. My favourite though is the Empress of India Nasturtium.

All nasturtiums have a distinctive leaf shape, sort of like lily pads, with the stem coming out the middle. The flowers are delicate and constant, and the colour depends on the variety. Some can be trained to climb if that’s what you want.

Nasturtiums are so easy to grow that people say you should “be nasty to nasturtiums”. But that isn’t necessarily the case. It is true that if you plant them in soil that is too rich you will get more leaves and fewer flowers. However, as long as you don’t feed or fertilize them, you can plant them in a regular garden bed and get lots of flowers. If you have poor soil, nasturtiums are a great choice.

People also use nasturtiums to help keep bugs away from other plants, like vegetables and fruit trees. Apparently they also help keep rabbits away. I can’t verify keeping rabbits out, but the rabbits did leave me veggies nearby. I can verify nasturtium had no effect on a corn-stealing squirrel.

Empress of India has rich, bright crimson coloured flowers. and leaves that are darker than other nasturtiums.

Nasturtium Empress of India Flowers and Leaves
Nasturtium Empress of India Flowers and Leaves

I planted these as seedlings in early April:

Nasturtium "Empress of India" Seedlings
Nasturtium “Empress of India” Seedlings

 

And by late summer we had practically a field of them in the veggie patch.

Profile of Nasturtiums
Profile of Nasturtiums

On that note, I would recommend giving them some space to breathe – these are too close together. By the end of the summer, the other nasturtiums were fighting with some diseases, I believe from them being too crowded. The Empress of India nasturtiums survived better than the others, and were the survivors by fall.

Super Quick Nasturtium Snack Recipe

Nasturtium leaves can be picked and eaten right from the plant. They are quite peppery and children may find them a bit too “spicy”. You can also add the leaves and flowers to salads. The flowers look especially beautiful in a salad.

Warning: It’s always advised to wash plants before eating, and never, ever eat a plant that’s been sprayed with any kind of pesticide or chemical.

For a quick and tasty snack:

  • Pick fresh nasturtium leaves – younger leaves are tastier
  • Wash them
  • Drop a teaspoon of cream cheese on one side of the leaf
  • Roll up the leaf, you can secure it with a toothpick if you are serving them
  • Eat and enjoy!

The cream cheese balances the peppery taste of the nasturtium leaf in a tasty snack.

Profile

Difficulty  Easy / Beginner
Height 12″
Width 24″
Zone (Annual)
Sun Full Sun
Soil Poor soil, do not fertilize
Water Dry, Average, Well Drained
Sowing 4-6 Weeks indoors / Direct sow outside after danger of frost
Bloom Time July – Frost
Special Needs None
Tips Keep watered for ongoing flowering

 

 

 

 

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