Day Three: 2 December 2022: Exotic watercress
This year there were nasturtiums trailing over the edges of the raised beds, tumbling from pots in sheltered corners of the garden, rampaging through the the greenhouse and polytunnel, appearing in salads and overflowing from vases in the kitchen. They have made me smile and added glorious splashes of exuberant colour to the garden. Nasturtiums have always made an appearance in pots around the garden, but in 2021 when I had more garden than plants, I was profligate with the nasturtium seeds. The plants flourished and set seed, some of which I collected and some of which I left. So this year there was an explosion of nasturtium seedlings which just grew and flowered and produced more seed.
I have lost track of which variety is which, especially as they have now all been cross pollinated. I suspect I have a mixture of Empress of India, African Queen and Blue Pepe. The latter is a selected culinary variety with small round, bluish leaves and bright orange flowers; perfect for pot growth and producing small leaves for the kitchen.
As I was composing this post I realised that I’d forgotten the Latin name for nasturtiums, which send me down the curiosity rabbit hole in search of the botanical history of this exotic plant of South American origin. The problem started with the etymology of nasturtium, which is apparently from ” Old English nasturcium (“watercress”), from Latin nasturtium“. However, what we now call nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus or T. minus) were not introduced into Europe until the late 17th century. The confusion arises because watercress, which is a native plant, is botantically Nasturtium officinale. They are members of different families, but both have peppery leaves, which may give a clue to the common name. Going back to the etymology, the root of nasturtium is nasus and torquere, i.e. twisted nose. So possibly the literal name of “twisted nose” refers to a reaction to the peppery taste of the leaves.