The leaves on my nasturtium plants are getting so big, they’re reminding me of lily pads. I love having nasturtiums in my garden, as they’re both beautiful and functional. I’ve come across some articles mistakenly claiming that nasturtiums repel aphids. I saw one article suggesting making an infusion out of nasturtiums and spraying it on your garden. Don’t do that! Whoever wrote that has never had a nasturtium plant. Aphids love them! For that reason, some people plant them outside of their vegetable garden, at some distance, to attract the aphids away from their veggies.
That is not, however, my goal when I plant my nasturtiums. I have a single purpose in mind: to make as much nasturtium pesto as humanly possible, and freeze it so that I have enough for the whole year. It’s one of my favorite things. But I’ll get to that later. First, today’s daily dozen starts with…
Normally, I have most or all of my fruits & berries during breakfast. However, it’s the first day of the year that we’re getting above 80 F (26 C), so I already know that I’m going to be having some banana ice dream with black raspberries tonight for dessert. Thus, I’m going to leave the banana & berries out of my usual breakfast routine. Also, because I already know that I don’t enjoy the texture of flaxseed with melon, I’m going to add it to the ice dream – we’ll see how that turns out. I think it’ll be really nice.
- 1/2 charentais melon
Aside from drinks, that’s it.
Checklist items: 2 other fruits (2 out of 18 servings)
The entire above-ground portion of the nasturtium plant is edible. The base of the larger/older stems do tend to be a bit too fibrous, though, so I cut the leaves and flowers off an inch or two down. It tastes both peppery, like its namesake, watercress (a.k.a. nasturtium officinale), and sweet. In fact, mine are exceptionally sweet this year – almost like candy. Hailing from northwestern South America, the nasturtium has been used traditionally to treat urinary and respiratory infections, including colds & flu.
Nasturtium plants, like their cabbage cousins, contain kaempferol – a flavonoid/antioxidant which has been shown to aid in cancer prevention and treatment along with quercitin, also contained in nasturtium. We also find anthocyanins, carotenoids, vitamin C, iron, sulphur, & manganese. It’s best to eat both the leaves and the flowers, as they have different distributions of these beneficial elements.
Anyone who has been concerned about eyesight & nutrition probably knows the value of lutein, but a search for lutein-rich foods typically has kale at the top of the list, despite the fact that nasturtiums provide the highest lutein density of any edible plant – 45 mg per 100 g. Lutein is vital in preventing macular degeneration, including cataracts, & glaucoma. In plants as well as animals, it helps to absorb damaging high-energy blue light rays, preventing free radical damage via antioxidant activity.
In a paper published in 2009, two researchers demonstrated that the essential oil in nasturtiums (benzyl isothiocyanate) kills harmful intestinal bacteria, such as E. coli and C. difficile, while leaving intact our gut microbiome’s beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacterium & lactobacillus.
For all these reasons and more, I vote that we start paying more attention in general to edible flowers, and in particular to nasturtiums! Good thing the best pesto I’ve ever had is a nasturtium pesto! And my favorite way to use it is in sandwiches.
You can find the recipe for my nasturtium pesto here. As I mentioned before, I make enough to freeze and use throughout the year. It loses its pepperyness when frozen, but that’s actually better for kids, and it still tastes totally amazing. So, for lunch, I’m having…
- 2 slices of whole grain bread
- 1/2 c nasturtium pesto
- 2 slices of zucchini
- 2 slices of bell pepper
- 2 slices of cucumber
- thinly sliced red onion
- radish sprouts
- 1 c arugula & lettuce, mixed
- 1/2 c broccoli
- 1/4 c hummus
I’ll put as much of this as I can into the sandwich, except for the hummus & broccoli – it will depend on the size of the bread, really. The rest I’ll just eat as veggies & dip. My whole grain bread is actually quite small – half the size of a “normal” sandwich-style loaf.
Checklist items: cruciferous, 2 greens, 2 other vegetables, spices, 1 whole grains (7 out of 18 servings)
Dinner is quick, and not too filling, because we want to save room for banana & black raspberry ice dream for dessert!
- 1 1/2 c black & pinto beans, mixed
- 1 c corn kernels
- 1/4 c cilantro
For flavor I added unknown quantities of lime juice, tamari, cumin, paprika, oregano, & sriracha, enough to suit my taste.
Checklist items: 3 beans, spices, 2 whole grains (6 out of 18 servings)
It’s so rare I have a dessert, so this feels like a treat, even though it’s basically just my breakfast in frozen form, with a little vanilla flavoring & nut milk added in. The basic recipe is here. Today, I used just 1 large banana, and added the following:
- 1 T ground flaxseed
- 1/2 c frozen black raspberries
- 1/4 c crushed Brazil nuts
Checklist items: berries, 1.5 other fruits, flaxseeds, nuts (4.5 out of 18 servings)
Taking account of the day:
19.5 servings in total
We got at least the recommended servings of everything, plus extra spices and 1/2 an extra serving of other fruits.