A beautiful article from The Herb Society of America about a pretty herb that most people probably overlook. Add some Queen Anne’s Lace to any flower arrangement. Snap the stem and breathe in the delicate scent of wild carrot, a cousin to the bigger roots you might eat with humus.
Close-enough pronunciation: “Nah-stir-shums”
Spicy little things and tough too.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you have heard of this one. It probably puts you in the 1% of Americans who have, but it’s not completely erased from memory.
And now, some actual statistics. According to Google Trends (as of September 2018), you are most likely to have searched for nasturtiums if you live in…Alaska! Fascinating.
It does require a little patience to grow nasturtiums. I don’t often see them at nurseries. They don’t transplant well, but it will save you time and money to grow nasturtiums yourself from seeds. I buy one cheap packet of seeds every Spring and place them all over my yard.
As long as you are patient with the little sprouts, nasturtiums grow well from seed, which might mean getting your hands dirty. But, if you are willing to plant them yourself, you will save a bundle over buying seedlings. You do need some patience. The seedlings are straggly for a little while.
When they finally mature and start to bloom, the flowers are abundant. The colors are absolutely bright and brilliant. Keep scrolling for a stunning display of the wide variety of nasturtium colors you can find online.
You can eat the flowers and the leaves. The flavor is spicy. They make beautiful butters and add a peppery bite to salads. The leaves and flowers can be brewed into tea. Peppery tea. I think I’d have fun mixing fresh nasturtium tea with complementary flavors, like lemon, orange and lavender.
One of the best characteristics is the sturdiness of the flowers. These blooms might look like tissue paper, but they are surprisingly long-lasting in an arrangement.
For the perfect impression and an affordable alternative to orchids, pick a bowl full of nasturtiums and place one bloom on each plate just before your guests arrive for brunch. You can use the leaves as garnish for hors d’oeuvres and platters.
My grandmother, Peg (born 1929), loved nasturtiums. Her sons could identify the plants on sight. Proof positive that we only started to forget this herb recently.
I was on vacation when she passed away in 2016. In my grief and the confusion to pack up and get home asap, I forgot to send flowers to the funeral home. I had a wonderful grandmother who adored her flower gardens, and I…forgot…to…send…flowers…to…her…funeral. Ouch.
It’s not that there weren’t any flowers there. My parents and relatives ordered beautiful, big arrangements with sashes on them: Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Sister. But, when I arrived at the wake and realized there was nothing from me to her, I felt hollow.
The afternoon before her funeral, I was wandering through the garden in search of some peace and calm. It was mid-August. My nasturtium vines were covered in blooms. What a saving grace.
I picked about 20 flowers and honored Gram’s Irish heritage with a beautifully-simple, hand-gathered arrangement: one big lime-green hydrangea circled by orange and white nasturtium flowers.
Thanks to offcenterfarm.com for letting me take photos of her beautiful variegated nasturtiums for this article.
As promised, here’s a display of some of the stunning colors in the nasturtium rainbow.
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View the whole forgotten herb series.
Close enough pronunciation: “Bore-uhge”
Other than my gardening hat, there is another obsession in my farm life—blue flowers.
Borage will give you a blue-flower fix all summer long. It is a tall, impressive plant that is easy to grow. And, when it sets too many baby seedlings, it is easy to weed.
The seeds from the borage flowers can be pressed into an oil that is among the world’s best sources of Omega-6 (GLA) essential fatty acid. I love this luxury oil so much, I incorporate it into all of the soaps I make. You can buy a bar here:
Borage was definitely an herb your ancestors knew well. It didn’t take me long to find a two-page description of different types of borage in a book published in 1636. Besides Latin, the author, John Gerard, gave the translation of the word borage in four other languages.
Borage is versatile. You can use the crunchy leaves to make salad, soup and decorative garnishes. Throw a few of the unique blue flowers on top of any salad—pasta salad, fruit salad, veggie salad, borage-leaf salad. Borage bits are often recommended as an addition to cucumber salads. The leaves and flowers have a light cucumber flavor.
Few breakfasts are as precious as borage on porridge.
I don’t want to mislead you. Not every flower will be blue. Some borage flowers are purple and pink. The same plant will usually give you 80% blue flowers and 20% a mix of pink and purple.
The plant barely needs you. Any time between March and August, put the seeds in the ground. Water them if it doesn’t rain. Your borage should flourish.
If you start early enough in the season, the flowers will bloom and drop, reseeding themselves all summer without your help. In fact, your borage will likely continue to replant itself, and next Spring you’ll have more bright, green borage babies. Too many? They slip right out of the soil if you pull them. Or you can use a garden tool to destroy their sprout-like root system in seconds.
Since borage reseeds so effortlessly, it helps to start your very first planting in a spot where future generations can spread a bit and not annoy you.
I let the borage line one whole side of a cedar raised bed. They are tall plants—reaching a height of approximately 4′. It is best to locate borage near the north side of your garden. You don’t want the tall, leafy mature borage to block sunlight from shorter plants. The next Spring, I just drop a wooden plant marker next to the seedlings wherever they decide to pop-up.
Imagine your great-grandkid never hearing the words mint or parsley or sage?
Well, in a way, you are that great-grandkid. I am that great-grandkid.
As chain grocers and supermarkets opened stores all across the world, they favored plants that travelled well. Over time, we simply forgot about a large number of herbs and veggies that were so common generations before us took them for granted.
Funnier still, you drive by some of them all of the time and might not know it. Some of those old-time, common plants escaped your ancestors’ gardens and are now called by the same generic term, “weeds”.
But, all is not lost. In this series I want to take you back to a time when the herbs mentioned here were well known.
Explore the series on Forgotten Herbs. I hope you try an idea or two. Each of the pages will provide you with links to buy some seeds of your own. Maybe we can bring back the popularity of some of these herbs.
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