Can You Eat Nasturtium Leaves? How to Harvest and Enjoy This Versatile Edible

As an annual, Nasturtium can be grown for its pretty flowers, leaves, and climbing stems. It can also be eaten. Both the flowers and leaves of the nasturtium are tasty eaten raw and fresh. Harvesting nasturtium plants as food is easy, as long as you know a few simple tips.

With their vibrant blooms and trailing foliage, nasturtiums are a beloved ornamental plant But did you know the entire nasturtium plant is actually edible? Both the leaves and flowers pack a peppery punch of flavor, making them a unique and nutritious addition to salads, entrees, and more If you’re curious how to eat nasturtium leaves, read on to learn how to identify, harvest, and enjoy this tasty edible.

An Overview of Edible Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums belong to the genus Tropaeolum and are native to South and Central America. The plant is comprised of round, lily-pad shaped leaves on trailing stems dotted with bright orange, yellow, or red trumpet-shaped flowers.

All parts of the nasturtium plant have a distinct peppery, slightly spicy flavor reminiscent of watercress or arugula. The intensity varies between plant parts, with the flowers being mildly flavored and the leaves and stems packing more of a punch. Even the immature seed pods are edible and make a peppery substitute for capers.

Nasturtiums contain several beneficial phytonutrients including vitamin C, manganese, and beta-carotene Eating nasturtium leaves and flowers can be a nutritious addition to your diet

Identifying Nasturtium Leaves

Nasturtium leaves are round or slightly oval with a radius of 2-6 inches. They resemble lily pads or the leaves of their botanical relative, watercress.

The leaves have long, trailing stems that can climb to 8 feet or more if supported. More compact varieties produce shorter runners.

Young leaves start out pale green before darkening to a deeper forest green as they mature. Veins radiate from the center where the leaf is attached to the stem.

Crush a leaf and take a small taste to identify nasturtiums by their signature peppery flavor. Just be sure to only sample leaves from plants you know are nasturtiums.

When and How to Harvest Leaves

Nasturtium leaves and flowers can be harvested anytime during the growing season. For the best flavor, pick leaves when they are young and more tender. Older leaves tend to be tough and overly spicy.

To harvest:

  • Pluck individual leaves by pinching the stem just above the leaf node.

  • Use scissors to snip off leaves and small stems.

  • For regrowth, cut back runners by a few inches, leaving some leaves intact.

  • Rinse and pat dry leaves before using. They don’t store long, so use immediately.

  • Pick flowers just as they are opening for maximum longevity.

Harvesting often encourages new leaf growth and flowering. Keep plants picked to encourage a continuous supply of edible parts.

How to Eat Nasturtium Leaves

The brightly colored blooms may steal the show, but nasturtium leaves deserve time in the spotlight for their versatility in the kitchen. Their peppery flavor pairs well with rich, creamy, and starchy ingredients. Here are some delicious ways to eat nasturtium leaves:

  • Chop leaves and add raw to green salads, grain bowls, and slaws.

  • Mix young leaves into herb butters, dips, and creamy cheeses.

  • Stuff whole leaves with savory fillings like cheese, tuna, or egg salad.

  • Puree into pesto, sauce, or dressing as you would other leafy herbs.

  • Infuse vinegar or olive oil with chopped leaves.

  • Garnish completed dishes with whole leaves or flowers.

  • Add to omelets, frittatas, pasta, fish, and sandwiches.

  • Blanch briefly and toss with roasted veggies, grains, or noodles.

  • Pickle leaves and buds as a condiment using vinegar brine.

Nasturtiums also make a decorative, edible garnish for desserts like cakes, tarts, and pavlovas. Let your creativity guide you – the possibilities are endless!

Growing Nasturtiums for Leaves and Flowers

Nasturtiums are easy to grow right in your garden or in containers:

  • Plant seeds directly in the garden after the last frost date. Cover lightly with 1/4 inch of soil.

  • Or start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before your frost-free date. Transplant seedlings outside when the weather warms.

  • Place vining types next to a trellis or cage for climbing support. Dwarf bush types thrive in containers.

  • Grow in full sun and well-draining, average soil. They don’t need fertilizer which can reduce flowering.

  • Water when the top few inches of soil become dry. Take care not to overwater.

  • Watch for aphids, whitefly, slugs and snails. Pick off pests and afflicted leaves.

  • Harvest flowers and leaves often to encourage steady regrowth.

With proper care, a few nasturtium plants can provide an abundant edible harvest!

Storing and Preserving the Bounty

To make your nasturtium harvest last, follow these storage tips:

  • Store fresh leaves and flowers in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer for up to one week.

  • Freeze chopped leaves by spreading in a single layer on a parchment lined pan and freezing until solid. Transfer to freezer bags.

  • Pickle flower buds and leaves in vinegar brine and store jarred in the refrigerator for months.

  • Dry leaves and flowers completely before storing in airtight glass jars. Dried leaves keep their flavor well.

  • Infuse leaves in vinegar, oils, honey, or spirits like the flowers. Refrigerate infused products.

With proper harvest and storage methods, you can enjoy nasturtium leaves year-round.

Caution: Look-Alike Toxic Plants

Before consuming any plant, it’s critical to properly identify it. Nasturtiums have some potentially dangerous look-alikes when not in bloom. Here’s how to tell them apart:

  • Water Hemlock – Has fern-like, sharply toothed leaves. Crushed leaves smell like parsnips. Extremely poisonous.

  • Bindweed – Arrowhead shaped leaves. Climbing vines. No aroma. Berries are poisonous.

  • Cardamine – Leaves are more oblong with serrated edges. Lacks peppery aroma. Non-toxic.

When in doubt, do NOT eat any plant unless identified with 100% certainty by an expert. Nasturtiums are easy to positively identify by their scent and flavor, round leaves, and colorful blooms.

Bringing Vibrant Taste and Beauty to the Table

Don’t reserve nasturtiums just for looks – get your fill of flavor, nutrition, and garden-fresh garnish by eating the leaves and flowers too. A tasty edible hiding in plain sight, nasturtium leaves add beauty and a kick of excitement to recipes. Grow your own or forage from your yard and savor this versatile and delicious plant from leaf to root.

How to Harvest Edible Nasturtiums

To eat nasturtiums, all you have to do is pick off the flowers and leaves as needed during the growing season. You can eat the flowers when they are buds or full bloom, but the leaves taste best when they are young and tender, so cut off the newer growth to use in cooking. Even though the plant tastes milder in the morning, it gets spicier as the day goes on, so pick it later in the day for a bigger kick. The flowers are great for eating but also for decorating. They do, however, fade quickly, so cut the plants with long stems and put them in a glass of water like you would any other cut flower. After lunch, you can eat them or put them in water in the fridge to eat the next day. The sooner you use them, though, the fresher they will look. Your nasturtiums will taste best under the right growing conditions. If the plant gets stressed, the flavor will be off-putting. Fortunately, it’s easy to grow nasturtiums. They prefer full sun to a little bit of shade. Soil should be well drained and not overly fertile. Make sure your plants get enough water, especially when it’s hot outside, so they don’t get stressed out and lose their flavor. Nasturtiums are a great way to add a little exotic flavor to your everyday meals, and they’re also a great way to get two uses out of your flower beds. These flowers look beautiful in beds, on trellises, and in pots, and they also give your vegetable drawer food.

Edible Nasturtium Flowers and Leaves

Many people think that only the leaves can be eaten, like as an herb or salad green, but the flowers can also be eaten and used to decorate food. Both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery, spicy flavor and add a bite to green salads. They can also be added to cooked meals, but only in the last few minutes to keep them from getting too done. Both the flowers and leaves, chopped, can be used in vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips. You can even stuff the larger leaves, like you would grape leaves. Use the flowers to decorate desserts too.



Are nasturtium leaves edible raw?

Nasturtium is an annual that you can grow for pretty foliage, climbing cover, and pretty flowers, but it can also be eaten. Both the flowers and leaves of the nasturtium are tasty eaten raw and fresh.

How to prepare nasturtiums for eating?

Instructions: Rinse the nasturtium leaves, stems, and flowers thoroughly under cold water, and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. In a food processor (or blender), combine nasturtium leaves, flowers, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts (or walnuts), and garlic. Pulse the ingredients until coarsely chopped.

Are nasturtium leaves healthy?

Good Source of Vitamin C The green leaves and flowers of nasturtiums are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, including vitamin C. According to some studies, the flowers contain about 130 milligrams of vitamin C per 3.5-ounce serving, which is a similar amount to nutrient-dense parsley.

What can you do with nasturtium leaves?

The flowers and leaves can be included in salads, stuffed like zucchinin flowers or chopped up into stirfrys. The seeds and young buds can be pickled and used as a replacement for capers.

What can I do with nasturtium leaves?

Chop leaves into a potato salad and/or add Nasturtium Capers (see recipe below). Top pizza with nasturtium leaves in place of rocket. The similar spicy flavor makes a wonderful alternative. Add the leaves to a pasta dish in place or in addition to baby spinach.

Can you eat nasturtium leaves?

Harvesting nasturtium plants as food is easy, as long as you know a few simple tips. Many people assume it is the leaves that are edible, like an herb or salad green, but you can use the flowers too, for culinary decoration and for eating. Both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery, spicy flavor and add a bite to green salads.

Are nasturtiums healthy?

Yes, nasturtiums have a wide range of health benefits. The leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber and folate.³ Nasturtium flowers also contain vitamin C. Just 100 grams of flowers contain roughly 130 milligrams of vitamin C.¹ The seeds are composed of roughly 26 percent protein.¹

Can you cook with nasturtiums?

The flowers have been used as a garnish for many years, but there are many other ways you can cook with nasturtiums. If you have an abundance of nasturtiums growing in your garden, discover 10 ways you can cook with nasturtiums using the flowers, leaves and seeds.

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