Grow nasturtiums, and you’ll be cultivating a multipurpose beauty!
We always grow fluffy mounds of annual, orange, yellow and red nasturtiums gracing the edges of our food garden on the farm. And, we pluck their generous blooms to decorate dinner salads, and their abundant leaves helped fill our bowls as well.
Do you get grossed out by black aphids all over your plants?
Us too. But, when you grow nasturtiums, you can use them to lure these pests! So, we’re always glad fast-to-regenerate nasturtiums are a pest’s favored plant – rather than some of our nearby storage crops like squash, tomatoes and beans.
Plus, we’re always thrilled when tiny hummingbirds dart from bloom to aphid to bloom. In fact, nasturtiums are one plant that has served many purposes on our little homestead. Nasturtiums are worth growing for pollinator forage, pest lure, eye candy, and food for us.
Grow nasturtium annual plants in your garden
On our farm, we grow Tropaeolum majus. This is the non-native, but quite common garden nasturtium. Usually, in spring, we sow seeds deeply in the earth and throughout summer the generous plants trails, mounds, and sometimes climbs like a vine. These plants feed us, help with pest insect control, and they look lovely. From annual nasturtium, we harvest leaves, flowers and even young seed pods to eat. But, come the chill of autumn, the plants crash to the ground, permanently. Of course, if these plants shed seed, new nasturtiums grow again the following spring. That’s an annual for you.
Also grow nasturtium perennials even more garden food harvests
Thanks to my friend Jessi Bloom, author of Free Range Chicken Gardens, Practical Permaculture and Creating Sanctuary, I learned about a gorgeous perennial Tropaeolum to cultivate in our Pacific NW garden.
Years ago, she handed me a shriveled old tuber from her fridge one winter day a few years ago and said, “Grow this.” And, I did. What came from that sad looking root was an amazing nasturtium that continues to thrive as a multipurpose perennial in our garden today: Tropaeolum tuberosum, mashua or perennial nasturtium is its name.
What Mashua has to offer & how to grow this perennial nasturtium:
Andean native mashua offers a few special features not found in its annual cousin. While annual nasturtiums may climb a little bit, Mashua climbs a lot, making for a beautiful seasonal privacy screen. Too, this means its unique, tubular, orange-red flowers open high on its twining stems. These high blooms lure hummingbirds. And, those birds sip greedily.
One bummer to know when you grow Mashua:
Mashua flowers open late in our PacNW growing season. This means the flowers don’t open until late in October or even November in the Pacific Northwest. So, if a frost hits early, this perennial may melt to the earth before blooming.
The good news with growing this perennial nasturutum
Perennials don’t die completely for winter. Instead, T. tuberosum has saying power through its carbohydrate-rich tubers. So, abundant new plants will come up again the following spring. But, this assumes you haven’t eaten all of those tubers.
Yep – the roots of Mashua are edible.
The starchy tubers from the Mashua impart a unique taste to soups and stews. Like the edible leaves of nasturtium, the Mashua roots are somewhat peppery and floral. And, they will most certainly infuse your dish with that flavor. Some consider it a delicacy, but not everyone is a fan.
Another great reason to grow Mashua…
Like Mashua’s annual cousin, the leaves and flowers of this perennial nasturtium are also edible. So even if you don’t dig eating those tubers, you may want to sprinkle some leaves in your summer salads.
To start growing Mashua in your garden…
It doesn’t take a lot of starts to get a lot of mashua growing. In fact, one or two tubers should be plenty of this perennial nasturtium. Many small nurseries will offer tubers in spring, and Raintree Nursery offers them for sale online.
Curious about other unusual edible plants to grow?
We offer a number of ways you can learn more about growing delicious and unusual plants in your garden. From our group garden coaching club premiere program to Herbal Happy Hour Garden-to-Bar, you’ll learn to grow, harvest and make the most of your tasty garden full of fabulous plants – including all sorts of nasturtiums!