Only one thing can compare with the peppery flavor of nasturtium flowers: nasturtium microgreens! They may be less decorative, but these baby greens pack a stronger taste than the full-grown leaves. Not only that, they’re also more nutritious and take a lot less work to grow. They’re perfect for the lazy gardener who wants to spice up their meals.
Microgreens are harvested for their cotyledons and tender stems. Nasturtium seedlings (scientific name Tropaeolum majus) branch into two cotyledons before growing true leaves and flowers. Instead of the tiny, primitive leaves we see on other seedlings though, these cotyledons are just like the mature leaves but a bit smaller. However, these are still some of the largest microgreen leaves we’ve seen. They’re pale green, circular, slightly scalloped, and have star-like, yellow veins. The thin stems underneath or either rose-pink or yellow.
All microgreens have health benefits and nasturtium is no exception. With an abundance of vitamins, including vitamin C, these greens are great for your immune system, weight loss, and even benefits hair and skin health. They’re often described as having a peppery, mustard, and even wasabi-like flavor. Nasturtium can be added to salads or anything that needs some spice. Some people even put them on or in sushi!
If you start growing nasturtium microgreens today, you’ll be munching away in just 2-3 weeks. To get started, review our top tips for cultivating these spicy salad seasonings.
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Growing Nasturtium Microgreens
Before we start our micro green journey, let’s gather some materials. Here’s everything you need to sow nasturtium seeds.
- Seeds: get some fresh nasturtium seeds from a reliable source, like True Leaf Market; or try San Diego Seed Co’s Empress of India Nasturtium seeds
- Containers: grab at least two shallow garden trays, one with drainage holes and one without
- Growing medium: Espoma seed starter mix is our favorite for any micro green
- Light: use a good-quality T5 grow light (see our top picks here)
- Harvesting shears: these kitchen scissors will get the job done
- A misting bottle (for misting!)
There are over 50 varieties of nasturtium herbs, so you have plenty to choose from. Dwarf varieties are said to be the best choice for growing microgreens, but you can choose any variety. They may vary a little in taste, size, or speed, but you should get the same general results from dwarf, trailing, and climbing types.
Here’s a short list of some of our favorites:
- Jewel Mix Nasturtium Microgreen Seeds
- Alaska Nasturtium Microgreen Seeds
- Whirlybird Mix Nasturtium Microgreen Seeds
- Empress Of India Nasturtium Microgreen Seeds
Nasturtiums don’t seed well hydroponically, so soil is the best choice. You’ll need a fine-grained mix that makes it easier for the roots to grow. Soil nutrients aren’t much of a concern here since the seedlings will get them from the seed endosperm.
It sounds weird to use a grow light for plants that are harvested after a couple weeks, but it’s absolutely worth it. Microgreens are grown and chopped in a mat, so they need to grow densely and evenly. Hanging a light directly above the plants keeps the stems short and prevents them from leaning to the side. You’ll also be able to control exactly how many hours of light they get each day.
Nasturtium seeds are round, bumpy, and about the size of a bean. To help them germinate better, soak them in warm water for 2-4 hours before planting. Make sure to give them a good rinse before transferring them from the bowl to the soil.
Get started on your microgreen garden by filling the holey drainage tray ¾ full of soil. Moisten the soil a bit and tamp it down lightly. Then sow your pre-soaked nasturtium seed all across the surface. The seeds should be close together but not overlapping. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil (this step is usually skipped for other microgreen plants).
Give the soil surface a final soak and tamp, then cover it with the second tray. This begins the blackout period – when the seeds germinate in the dark. The cover should be kept in place for at least 2-3 days. Only remove it to check on the moisture level and water with a misting bottle, as needed. The temperature should be warm (just above room temperature).
When the seeds have sprouted, remove the cover and switch on your grow light. For best results, give the micro greens 16 hours of light each day. The stems and leaves may be pale in color at first, but exposure to light will quickly turn them green (or pink!).
Microgreens may grow in a short window of time, but they’re very susceptible to bacteria growth. To prevent any issues of the sort, we’ll only be watering the sprouts from the bottom. After the blackout period, convert the cover to a watering tray. Fill it with a couple inches of water and set the garden tray inside. The soil will take its fill through the drainage holes. Be sure to remove the water tray afterwards. This simple process will save your plants from excess moisture which, when combined with warm temperatures, is an invitation to plant disease.
The final stage has arrived! In just over two weeks after planting, your nasturtium microgreens should be ready. Now, most microgreens are harvested as soon as the cotyledons appear, but that’s not the case with nasturtium. Since nasturtium leaves keep their flavoring as they mature, we can let the plants grow a few leaves before harvesting. Also, as long as one or two leaves are left on each plant, your nasturtium microgreens should regrow after harvesting.
Allow each plant to grow up to 4 leaves. More than that and the plant may start pulling nutrients from the soil instead of the seed. Of course, you can let the plant keep growing, but you’ll have to transplant it into a bigger container and start using fertilizer. It takes more work, but you’ll get some edible flowers out of it.
For now though, let’s stick with our microgreens. Grab your shears and clip the tips of the nasturtiums, including a couple of leaves. You can harvest as needed or all at once (you’ll want to get them all before they get too old though). You can even sample the nasturtium leaves as you go so you can decide exactly how intense you want the flavor.
Eat your nasturtium leaves raw or cook them very slightly (like spinach). You can garnish salad or hot dishes with them, stick them in sushi, mince them for vinaigrettes, or steep them in tea. These garden greens have pretty versatile flavoring, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
As with any salad herbs, eat your nasturtium leaves when they’re fresh. If you’re not going to use them within a few hours, hold off on washing them and seal them in a container. The chopped greens should last up to 5 days in the fridge this way, especially if you add in a paper towel to soak up excess moisture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are nasturtiums edible?
A: That’s what they’re famous for! From seed to flower, nasturtiums are a nutrient-dense and delicious addition to salads and more.
Q: What is the best soil for microgreens?
A: Something fine-grained, like seed-starting soil. The small particles make it easy for the delicate roots to settle in.