Harvesting nasturtium: timing & practical tips


For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

The aromatic, spicy flowers of the nasturtium are not only beautiful on the plant, they also make a great impression on plates as edible decorations.

Nasturtium flower
The flowers are not the only edible part of nasturtiums

If you regularly harvest the flowers of the nasturtium (Tropaeolum), you can enjoy an extended flowering period. But how can nasturtiums be preserved and what is the right way to harvest them? Read on to find out all about picking and eating nasturtiums.

Harvesting nasturtiums

The first leaves of nasturtium can be harvested about 4 to 6 weeks after sowing and then throughout the entire cultivation period. From the beginning of the flowering period in June until the first frosts in autumn, the plants produce masses of colourful flowers that can be harvested both unopened and opened. It is best to pick them after a rainy day and early in the morning, as the bloom remains fresh when harvested at this time and the flavour is most prominent. After harvesting, briefly check whether there are still insects such as earwigs in the flowers. If you let one or two flowers wither, you may discover seed pods a short time later, which can also be harvested when unripe. If you want to collect nasturtium seeds for sowing, then they must first ripen completely on the plant.

Tip: even if you do not have a garden, you can grow nasturtiums in pots on your balcony. To ensure that your nasturtiums grow majestically all season long, check out our article on planting nasturtiums.

Nasturtiums growing in garden
Younger nasturtium leaves have a much milder taste than older ones [Photo: Vvicca1/ Shutterstock.com]

Preserving nasturtiums

The abundant harvest of leaves, flowers and seed pods is crying out to be processed. But preserving this delicious plant is difficult, as the nasturtium flowers and leaves are not particularly suitable for drying or freezing. Here are some great ways to preserve nasturtiums:

  • Pickle flower buds and unripe seed pods like capers
  • Make a pesto from the leaves
  • Freeze flowers with water in ice cube trays
  • Ground dried seeds to use as a spice
  • Use blooms to make a flavoured vinegar
Pickled nasturtium seeds, leaves and flowers
Pickling is a good way to preserve the spicy aroma of nasturtiums [Photo: Madeleine Steinbach/ Shutterstock.com]

Eating nasturtium: which parts of the plant are edible?

Many people already know that the flowers of the nasturtium plant are edible but that the leaves and seeds of the plant can also be eaten may come as a surprise to some. If you have pets, there is no reason to worry about this plant because nasturtium is completely safe for them too.

Are nasturtium leaves edible?

The leaves of the nasturtium plant are edible and can be used, for example, to make a tea that strengthens the immune system.

Are nasturtium flowers edible?

Yes, nasturtium flowers can be eaten both open and closed.

Are the seeds of nasturtium edible?

Yes, nasturtium seed pods are often used in their unripe state. As already mentioned, they are popular as a substitute for capers. Nonetheless, the ripe, dried seeds can also be used as a pepper substitute. Here it is important to always freshly grind the dried seeds.

Open and unopened nasturtium flowers
Nasturtium flowers can be picked even when they are still closed [Photo: PEACE ECOLOGY/ Shutterstock.com]

Using nasturtium in the kitchen

Nasturtiums taste best freshly picked, whether it be as a spicy ingredient in a salad, herb butter, sour cream herb dip, or as an edible flower decoration. The flowers filled with cream cheese are a special delicacy. The larger leaves can also be stuffed like grape leaves. If you want to visually enhance your drinks, you can freeze nasturtium flowers in ice cube trays.

Properties and effects of nasturtium

The mustard oil glycosides give nasturtium its pungent, cress-like taste. Their antimicrobial effect against bacteria, viruses and fungi is undisputed. In 2013, the garden nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) was even named medicinal plant of the year. The plant extract is often used to prevent urinary tract infections and colds. But nasturtium also contains other healthy ingredients, including vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids and sulphur.

Nasturtium herb butter on bread
Nasturtiums taste great in herb butters [Photo: Heike Rau/ Shutterstock.com]

Did you know that the flowers and bulbs of certain lily species (Lilium) can be eaten? Get inspired about other splashes of colour with which you can decorate your dishes in our article on edible flowers.

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