Knowing nasturtium is next-level plant knowledge. For the general population, nasturtium is not as common as your peas or beans or green leafy vegetables, unless you are from South America or Central America where this plant comes from.
It wouldn’t be surprising then that you’d encounter a nasturtium shoots first even before you had a full-grown, mature nasturtium, but don’t worry – microgreens is not a substitute but merely another way to eat edible plants.
Family: Tropaeolaceae Juss. ex DC.
Genus: Tropaeolum L.
Nasturtium Shoot Trivia
- Nasturtium is actually a common name; the plant’s botanical name is Tropaeolum.
- Nasturtium is one of the plants named by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his book Species Plantarum.
- T. polyphyllum is considered the hardiest nasturtium species, capable of surviving the winter even at an altitude of 3,300 meters.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, the famous author who wrote Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, pointed out that the anglicization of the word nasturtium is “nasturtian”.
Nasturtium Shoot Buying Guide
Nasturtium shoots are sold in groceries, supermarkets, farmers markets, and other specialty stores. Ask around for local growers so that you can source your nasturtium shoots locally, especially if you are in the restaurant or food catering business requiring a regular supply of nasturtium shoots.
When buying nasturtium shoots, buy just enough until the next grocery day. If this is the first time you are buying nasturtium shoots, try to buy in small quantities first so that you can taste them; should you not like it, you don’t have a lot of nasturtium shoots to dispose of and you are not being wasteful.
When buying, make sure to inspect it thoroughly. See if the leaves and stems are of good quality. It is ok if one or two are wilted, but if most of the bunch are wilted and do not appear fresh, do not buy it.
If you are buying seeds so that you can grow your own nasturtium shoots, this will give you an idea of how many seeds you expect to get from a pack.
- 1-ounce pack contains approximately 8,000 seeds
- 4-ounce pack contains approximately 32,000 seeds
- 1-pound pack or bag contains approximately 128,000 seeds
- 5-pound pack or bag contains approximately 640,000 seeds
- 25-pound pack or bag contains approximately 3,200,000 seeds
Nasturtium Shoot Production & Farming in Texas
Growing nasturtium shoots is easy. Nasturtium shoots prefer soil as growing medium – loamy, sandy, clay, or dry soil will do. Put soil on your growing tray. Moisten the soil if it feels dry but do not overwater it because if this happens, you need an extra hour just to make sure the excess water has fully drained. The next step is sprinkling the seeds on the growing medium. If you are unsure how many seeds you need, 1.25 ounces of seeds are enough to cover a 10×20 tray without the problem of overcrowding. Lightly mist the seeds using a spray bottle. Cover the tray with a lid and keep it somewhere dark with a room temperature ranging from 60°F to 70°F. Remove the lid and mist them lightly every day. For nasturtium shoots, expect signs of germination in 4 to 7 days. The next step is exposing them to sunlight. You can use grow light, artificial light, or indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight is not recommended because the microgreens will easily dry. Nasturtium shoot seeds require soaking in warm water for at least 4 hours. Blackout time is between 2 to 3 days. Nasturtium shoots are ready for harvest in about 14 to 16 days.
- Buy nasturtium shoot seeds from a reputable seed seller or distributor.
- Water from the side of the tray to make sure the weight of the water will not squash the microgreens, or maintain water in the water tray.
- Try to sample a few each day starting from day 10. You’ll notice the subtle difference in flavor as the microgreens continue to grow.
- Rotate crop once it is exposed to light to avoid “bending” microgreens.
- Molds can “hop” from plants to your microgreens, so avoid putting your grow trays beside other plants just to be safe.
There are farmers and growers in Texas who grow nasturtium shoots, ranging from small backyard urban gardening to big commercial operations. Grand Prairie Microgreens and Bella Verdi Farms in Dripping Springs, Texas are just two of the several microgreen businesses in the state. Many here in Texas grow microgreens for their supply and consumption. There are also initiatives in Texas like the Big Tex Urban Farms that help promote the business as well as the attitude of the public towards microgreens. Texas restaurants with microgreens on the menu use and mix different microgreens including nasturtium shoots, which is a favorite among chefs and bartenders.
Microgreens are a fast-growing crop. This means there is very little time for pests to be a problem. If there is a pest `problem, it will probably involve aphids and whiteflies. If the problem requires the use of pesticides, make note of the following:
Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
Whiteflies – Malathion or Pyrethrins are effective against whiteflies.
Nasturtium is native to South America and Central America, particularly in Peru and Colombia. Production of nasturtium is mostly in the high-altitude areas in the countries of Bolivia and Peru. Because of its taste and potential in improving a dish, nasturtium is one of the edible plants now grown as a microgreen. Nasturtium shoots present another way to eat nasturtium, and because of grow lights and temperature-controlled rooms, it is possible to grow any microgreens anywhere in the world, and that includes nasturtium shoots. North America is a major microgreens market. The US (where microgreens originated), Canada, and Mexico are among the top producing countries of microgreens.
Nasturtium shoots are sold in transparent plastic clamshell packaging or Styrofoam food tray covered with plastic wrap.
Enjoying Nasturtium Shoots
You can eat nasturtium shoots raw. When you eat a nasturtium shoot, you will notice its peppery flavor similar to the taste and flavor of mustard spice or wasabi. Wash them, dry them, and put them in a bowl for anyone who wants to snack on fresh nasturtium shoots. This is a great way to start a healthy and nutritious snacking habit. But be careful not to eat too many nasturtium shoots – or any at all – if you have a history of having an allergic reaction to nasturtium. Consult your physician first. Always remember that consumption of nasturtium should be kept at a minimum because of its potential toxicity if ingested in large quantities.
If you have to store nasturtium shoots, make sure to wrap these in damp paper towels before you put these inside a resealable plastic bag or food container. They will last for a week this way. Freezing is not ideal because microgreens simply do not have the structural strength mature, full-grown vegetables have to survive being frozen and thawed. Most of the time, freezing and thawing will turn microgreens into slime, and what is left is unappetizing.
If the nasturtium shoots you bought came in clamshell packaging, use it to store nasturtium shoots in the refrigerator. If, for some reason, you need to transfer the nasturtium shoots to a different container, choose a plastic container with a lid. The least ideal storage is glass because it has the most condensation when in the refrigerator and the condensation contributes to the degradation of the quality of the nasturtium shoots inside. Avoid putting them near the vent of the refrigerator because if the temperature fluctuates, it will affect the condition of the nasturtium shoots. Put it on the lower shelf where the temperature is more stable. Remember that different microgreens vary when it comes to how long they keep in the refrigerator.
There are a lot of ways to use nasturtium shoots but the most important reminder is to never overindulge.
Toss green vegetable salad with nasturtium shoots. If you love making sandwiches, put some nasturtium shoots and make your sandwich crunchier and tastier. Use it as filling for any wrapped food like tacos and spring rolls. On a rainy day and you have a bowl of hot soup in hand, why not sprinkle it with some nasturtium shoots? This also works for stews, curries, and noodles. You can also sprinkle nasturtium shoots on any baked food (or add it during baking), like pizza. Nasturtium shoots are also great on pasta. Pancakes are traditionally accompanied with sweet elements like maple syrup, but savory pancakes taste good too, and you can add nasturtium shoots to savory pancakes. You can also garnish sushi with nasturtium shoots, or mix it with eggs if you are making a breakfast omelet.
Nasturtium shoots contain vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, manganese, iron, flavonoids, and beta carotene. It helps the body have a strong immune system. It can also help with problems like sore throat, coughs, colds, and infections. It is also used to remedy hair loss.