Nasturtiums or ‘Nose-Twisters’?

Have you ever heard of ‘nose-twisters’?  Well if you haven’t – let me tell you that if you have a

Have you ever heard of ‘nose-twisters’?  Well if you haven’t – let me tell you that if you have a vegetable garden, then you will definitely want to get some.

So what are ‘nose-twisters’?

You may know them better by their other name; Nasturtiums.


Aren’t they pretty?  It’s hard to believe that anyone would call them ‘nose-twisters’, but it’s true.  The word ‘nasturtium’ is Latin with ‘nasus’ meaning ‘nose’ and ‘tortum’ meaning ‘twist’, referring to the mustard oil contained within the leaves.

Nasturtiums are not only attractive, but they are extremely helpful in the vegetable garden.  While their fragrance doesn’t bother humans, damaging insects can’t stand it.

Nasturtiums spilling out of my vegetable garden.

Because of this, I have nasturtiums growing in my vegetable garden (above) every spring.  They really do help to keep damaging insects away from all my vegetables….especially my tomatoes.

There are many other reasons to include nasturtiums in your garden.  All parts of the plant is edible and are great to include in salads.  They have a ‘peppery’ taste to them.

Their seeds are quite large and easy to grow, which makes them a great gardening project for kids to do.  Simply plant in spring, once the danger of frost is past, in a sunny area.

Nasturtium leaves in the rain.

Nasturtiums aren’t fussy plants and actually prefer non-fertile soil, which results in more flowers.  However, they are still recommended for vegetable gardens with fertile soil because of their repellent qualities – you won’t get that many flowers, but the leaves are very attractive by themselves.

Nasturtiums planted next to cauliflower and shallots.

Nasturtiums are available in climbing, dwarf and traditional forms.  You can also find varieties in a multitude of colors such as yellow, orange and reds.  They can grow up a trellis, spill over a container and the traditional forms make great bedding plants.

In hot summer areas, like mine, my nasturtiums die off in the summer.  I just let them go to seed and they often grow back in spring.  You can also collect the seed and plant them in other areas.

It’s hard to find a better annual for the garden….beautiful flowers and leaves, is edible, easy to grow, keeps damaging insects away AND it’s cheap!

So spend a couple of dollars on a packet of seeds and you’ll soon be enjoying the many benefits of ‘nose-twisters’ this spring.

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Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.