Although dwarf nasturtiums (botanical name Tropaeolum minus) are perennially growing plants, they are generally grown as annuals in places having cooler climatic conditions. Dwarf nasturtiums are vivid cheerful ornamental plants, which are of climbing variety, and they are an energetic, scrambling vine that usually grows to a height of approximately 3 meters or 10 feet. They make a very attractive trellis plants. Dwarf nasturtiums are indigenous to the Andean South America, counting Columbia, Peru and Ecuador. Dwarf nasturtium is ideal for vibrant summer pots as well as hanging baskets, rock gardens and also in the form of an edging for sunlit garden plots.
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The leaves of nasturtium are vivid green and appear to have elongated stems. They are veined having a somewhat curvy margin. The dimension of the leaves in whichever variety is dependent on the superiority of the soil on which the plant is grown. When grown in very fertile soil, the plants have verdant foliage, but they produce lesser number of flowers. On the other hand, when the plants are grown in poor soil, they have smaller leaves, but bear more number of flowers. Dwarf nasturtium possesses a scent that is akin to that of mustard and has a hot and spicy flavour.
Climbing nasturtium has several branching, fleshy stems that coil around any object they come in contact with and their root is tuberous.
When grown in appropriate soil conditions, dwarf nasturtiums generate masses of brightly red, orange, yellow or creamy white flowers that are in bloom during the period from summer to autumn. The flowers are open and funnel shaped and have a hollow, tubular extension or spur at the bottom. In addition, they have a similar, but rather gentler flavour compared to the leaves.
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The seed pods of dwarf nasturtiums are spherical and green in color that emerge after the flowering season and have an acerbically peppery taste. The features of this plant are akin to those of its taller close cousin, barring the fact that it is low, non-climbing and bears comparatively small flowers whose lower petals are spotted. In addition, the seed pods of this variety are also comparatively small.
The leaves, flowers and seed pods of dwarf nasturtium are all edible.
Dwarf nasturtiums may also be grown indoors in pots and they will supply you with fresh leaves and flowers during the winter months. Hummingbirds have a special attraction to this plant.
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The whole dwarf nasturtium plant is known to possess antiseptic, antibiotic, diuretic, aperient and expectorant properties. The herb is effective in loosening up the congestion of the respiratory passages as well as the chest when one is suffering from cold. The juice extracted from the herb or a tea prepared from it may be employed in the form of an internal or external antiseptic. The antibiotic properties of dwarf nasturtium are effective in combating aerobic spore forming bacteria. In addition, the herb is also believed to have a favourable consequence on the blood by means of encouraging formation of new blood cells.
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In addition, to its therapeutic uses, dwarf nasturtium is also used for culinary purposes. The leaves of this herb may be added to green salads and potato salads as well as employed in sandwiches as an alternative for cress. You may also stuff the leaves with your preferred meat or cheese fillings. The leaves of dwarf nasturtium actually are most flavourful when they are consumed fresh, since they have a propensity to turn somewhat bitter when they are kept for a long period. You may also employ the leaves to season salad dressings, cheese spreads and also in sauces to go along with salmon, asparagus and crab dishes.
The lovely flowers of dwarf nasturtium may also be added to salads for enhancing their color and flavour. You may also use the flowers and leaves of this plant to garnish summer dishes.
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The leaves of dwarf nasturtium may be consumed raw and they have a flavour akin to that of hot watercress. When taken in small amounts, the leaves of this herb are extremely pleasant on their own or in the form of a flavouring in mixed salads. The leaves of dwarf nasturtium are available from the early part of summer till the first frosts of the autumn in your region.
Like the leaves, even the flowers of dwarf nasturtium can be consumed raw. The flowers of this plant are extremely ornamental and flavourful adding essence to the salad bowl. It has been found that the flowers of dwarf nasturtium enclose about 130 mg of vitamin C in every 100 grams.
The young seed pods of dwarf nasturtium are even spicier compared to the leaves and the flowers of the plant. The seed pods may be harvested while they are unripe and made into a pickle as a substitute for caper.
The seed of this plant may be consumed raw or cooked. They are extremely spicy to taste. The mature seeds of dwarf nasturtium may be pulverized to make a powder and employed as a substitute for pepper.
Besides its therapeutic utilities, the cheerful dwarf nasturtiums are also used for craft purposes. For instance, they may be used in any fresh floral arrangement.
The ideal growth conditions of dwarf nasturtium include any common garden loam, if possible slightly sandy. The soil ought to be reasonable moist and have proper drainage. This plant has a preference for warm, sunlit places, but has the aptitude to endure partial shade. However, when grown in partial shade, dwarf nasturtium does not flower as good.
When the plant is grown on a fertile soil it produces more and more verdant leaves, however, in this condition, the number of flowers produced by the plant declines. On the contrary, when the dwarf nasturtium is cultivated on poor and infertile soils, the leaves of the plant are comparatively few, less lush, while there is an abundance of flowers. Dwarf nasturtium has an aversion towards drought. On the other hand, the seeds of the plant will generally not germinate in cold springs till it is middle of or late summer. In fact, this is again very late to produce a good crop.
Dwarf nasturtium plants germinate from the seeds readily. In fact, the process of sowing the seeds ought to be begun indoors approximately four weeks prior to the last spring frost date in your area. The seeds of this plant take about a week to germinate. In order to hasten the germination process, you may soak the seeds during the night in tepid water prior to sowing them. Ideally, the seeds ought to be sown at a depth of 1 cm or half an inch under the soil. You should remember that the young dwarf nasturtium plants are susceptible to frost and, hence, ought not to be transplanted in their permanent position outdoors in the garden till it is late spring.
The young plants should be transplanted in a manner that there is ample space, about 15 cm to 30 cm (6 inches to 12 inches) between two plants. However, the space may differ dependent on the variety of the plant that is being grown. The climbing varieties of dwarf nasturtium should be provided with support, such as a pole, a fence or a trellis. In case the plants turn out to be messy, you need to trim them as well as remove the older flowers with a view to extend the flowering period. In case you wish to harvest the seed pods of dwarf nasturtium, you should not resort to deadheading during the middle of August.
It may be noted that nasturtiums always draw aphids and, hence, make an effort to remove these pests using a hand spray of water using a hosepipe. It is important to note that you should never use chemical sprays and washes on nasturtiums if they are being grown for culinary purpose. Dwarf nasturtiums are also vulnerable to leaf spot and bacterial wilt. If you wish to grow the plant indoors on windowsills during the winter months, you should sow the seeds of dwarf nasturtium sometime during the later part of summer or during early fall. If you are growing the plant indoors, you need to ensure that they receive a minimum of four hours direct sunlight every day. In addition, you need to maintain the soil only just moist, and from time to time, use liquid fertilizers to nourish the plants.
Dwarf nasturtium has a number of named varieties or species. This plant grows excellently when cultivated alongside cabbages, radishes and fruit trees - in fact, this enhances their growth as well as their flavour. Dwarf nasturtium is a very good companion plant for several plants, as it not only wards off harmful insects, but also enhances the growth and flavour of the plants growing in its vicinity. When you find aphids on dwarf nasturtium plants, you should be sure that it is an indication of the soil being deficient in lime. On the other hand, snails and slugs love to eat nasturtiums and, hence, these plants may be grown to keep off these creatures from other plants in the neighbourhood. In addition, the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly may frequently prove to be botheration for the nasturtiums and more often than not result in substantial damage to the dwarf nasturtium leaves.
Dwarf nasturtium contains mustard oil, vitamin C, iron and phosphorus.
People using therapeutic preparations of dwarf nasturtium need to be aware of the potential side effects caused by this herb and accordingly, exercise necessary precautions. For instance, the mustard oil found in nasturtium has the potential to cause irritation internally as well as externally to susceptible people and having a regular contact with the fresh plant may also result in skin complaints.
Here is a word of caution: people, especially young children, who are suffering from any kidney ailment or gastrointestinal ulcers should never consume nasturtium. In addition, the pickled nasturtium seeds should also be consumed in measured amounts for it may have a purgative effect.
The leaves of dwarf nasturtium may be collected for fresh use during any time of the year. The leaves of this herb are the softest parts of dwarf nasturtium and appear just before the plant begins to flower.
It you wish to dry the nasturtium leaves for future use, you need to cut them into smaller portions and put them on a cookie sheet in a cool and shady place. On the other hand, you may also dry up the entire leaves and then crush them. The dried nasturtium leaves ought to be stored in sealed containers.
The flowers of dwarf nasturtium are harvested when they have opened completely, but continue to remain fresh. The seed pods of this plant ought to be collected when they are either small or grown to full size, but still retain their green color.