Sunday, October 3, 2010



For exactly 21 years starting in 1982 after my grandfather died, my grandmother and I would holiday together in Morro Bay and Cambria. We always stayed at the same hotel, ate at the same restaurants, and shopped the same shops. The nasturtium was the flower I identified most with the coast. I have fond memories associated with this flower.

Then, sometime in the early 90's, I remember first being served a couple bright orange flowers next to my salad at a cutsie, coastal, cottage cafe in Cambria (phew! alliteration anyone?). We weren't sure if it could be eaten, or if it was merely served as plate decoration. Now I see them all the time in farmers' market salad mixes. To me, it tastes very green with a subtle bite of radish.

Nasturtium is a very popular garden flower from Morro Bay and Cambria to Carmel and Pacific Grove and elsewhere. I don't know if it's because I live on the coast now and have a different perspective of flowers that catch my attention, or if it's because people are planting more natives these days, but depending on the season I now seem to see more California poppies than anything else.

While Calflora lists this plant as invasive, I can't say I've seen it out in the wild during hikes at parks and preserves. I do see it creeping out of garden fences and down private property hillsides. I suspect many gardeners have to cut it back on a regular basis. It originated from South America.

ps 10/06/10 - Oh! I just read nasturtiums are often planted as a companion plant to repel insects like cucumber beetles. Haha! I'm not sure how well that works considering my spotted cucumber pics were taken in the same field. And, for an entertaining and informative post with a too cool nasturtium pesto recipe, check out Phyte Club's post.

13 comments:

texwisgirl said...

Beautiful, and tasty too? :) Not sure I'd be quick to eat them but I'd sure admire them if they grew here.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I love nasturtiums in salads, along with other edible flowers. I've never seen it escape from a garden setting, but seeing how rampant it can get in the garden, it does seem to have invasive potential. We only grow mounding nasturtiums here, as they tend to be better behaved than the monstrous trailing varieties. I've never seen a cucumber beetle anywhere near ours, although at the moment the beetles do seem to be swarming all over the sunflowers, which have been working as a great trap crop this year!

Nature ID said...

texwisgirl, can I simply call you twg? I don't know if I'd make a whole salad out of nasturtiums, but they do add a bit of variety and color.

Clare, funny thing, I didn't see a single spotted cucumber beetle on any of the sunflowers. Oh, I hope I wasn't a downer on your turkey post. Are you going to prep "Thanksgiving" yourself? Your blog is incredibly informative and fun!

Nature ID said...

ps Clare - thought you'd like this: http://phyteclub.org/2010/10/05/flower-fruit-seed-nasturtium-pesto/

Janet said...

We used to enjoy staying in Cambria when our travels took us down the coast. Glad you had a nice tradition there!

Nature ID said...

Thanks, Janet!

phyte club katie said...

Katie! This is great -- I'm amazed how we're on the same track...did we not do this in August with another naturalized exotic, the naked lady? Ah, I love the Central Coast and all it's continuity. Speaking of which, whoo hoo for Robin's! Having grown up in the quaint seaside village of Cambria (sic -- it's also REALLY conservative, but I suppose anywhere is compared to SF, eh?), I've eaten more of their delectable deli salads than I can count, and likely one of their garden grown nasturtiums too. If you ever make it up here I'll show you all the nasturtiums-gone-wild spots and we can make some pesto!

Nature ID said...

Hi, Katie! I'm guessing this answers your question about why I considered Cambria when I returned to CA. I prefer the people diversity of Santa Cruz and San Francisco, but the traffic and noise is too much for me. PG is kinda a stodgy, but I like having 3 grocery stores, 2 farmers' markets, a natural history museum, and an aquarium all within walking distance along the water. Plus several of my favorite hiking spots are only 5-15 minutes away by car. You'll notice I'm not associated with any local organizations. I used to be on the Board of Directors at the museum, but being 20+ years younger than the rest of them, I simply didn't fit in. It's too bad the old guard at these organizations don't welcome younger folks more readily.

Erica Lea said...

Katie, I so envy you for living on the coast!!! The Central Coast probably the only area we'd really like to live in Cali. We lived in Arroyo Grande a short time many years ago, and I will always remember our visits to both Cambria and Morro Bay (only a couple, but so beautiful). I know how expensive it is to live on the coast, but who knows what the future might bring, right? P.S. Didn't know Nasturtium was supposed to be invasive - it's such a cheerful flower:-)

Nature ID said...

Erica, I'd love to have private e-mail contact with you (my gmail address is listed in the sidebar at the bottom of the page).

Susan said...

Our garden is full of nasturtium this year..all "volunteers" from last year. But I love the flowers in salads too,and you can make false capers out of the buds simply by putting them in a brine solution. Delicious with smoked salmon.

Jennifer and Steve said...

Hey! Thanks for commenting so we can check out your blog too. :) I added a bit more information to our lemon balm post on how to take a tincture, but here's more. When we bottle it, we will put it in a dark bottle (it's light sensitive) with a dropper and take the needed dosage a few drops to 30 drops in a small glass of water. Hope the fires settle out there soon!

Nature ID said...

Thanks, Susan. I'm actually considering making nasturtium capers simply to taste what they're like.

Common Milkweed, I'm waiting to hear of a fern bar offering tincture-infused cosmopolitans. It could be the new thing among the green and trendy.