They’re Not Just Pretty (They taste great, too!)

One of the delights of owning a hobby greenhouse is that that there are many varieties of plants that can be grown in its warm, humid climate.

Often we tend to think of growing mostly tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and that certainly was the case when we grew vegetables commercially.

There are greenhouses that are dedicated to growing herbs, only; others specialize in tropical potted plants, in orchids or even cacti.

The environmental conditions of the plants you grow should be similar. It would be difficult to grow cacti among tropical plants as the temperature, watering and humidity conditions are drastically different.

A few years ago, I had a young man come into my flower shop telling me that he grew dendrobium orchids in his greenhouse, in the winter. He loved that particular flower, considered it a challenge to grow it here in the North and, sure enough, come February, he came into the flower shop with several stems of the orchids.

His greenhouse was totally focused to maintain the desired condition of that particular plant. The greenhouse was very tiny (just enough room for one person to get in and out), super insulated with a small electric heater and a grow light.

Several pots of orchids were flourishing. Contrary to popular belief, this type of orchid can tolerate cooler temperatures. The plants bloomed in February just as he had planned.

To start you thinking about different plants you can grow in your greenhouse, why not try something easy such as the not-so-exotic nasturtium.

Now, I know nasturtiums grow well outdoors, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of plants in your greenhouse. Choose both dwarf varieties as well as tall types that climb up trellises and netting.

Every portion of the nasturtium is good to eat. The flowers have a sweet-pungent flavour, and the leaves taste something like watercress. They are good both in salads and on sandwiches, and the seeds grow as big as peas and are delicious when pickled.

To pickle the seeds, just clean and bottle them in sterilized canning jars with freshly boiled vinegar; seal and process as for pickles (10 minutes in a boiling-water bath for pint jars) and store.

Another use for nasturtiums is to make nasturtium vinegar.

Just gather enough of the fresh blossoms to fill a quart jar, add a finely chopped shallot, a tiny clove of garlic and a dash of cayenne pepper. Fill the jar with cider vinegar, cover tightly and let stand for two months or so. Strain liquid through the cheesecloth and add a teaspoon of salt. Pour into a sterilized bottle and seal until ready to use.

Chopped nasturtium blossoms also blend in beautifully with cream cheese or butter as a spread for sandwiches.

If that is not enough reason to grow the versatile nasturtium in your greenhouse, the plant is also a wonderful companion plant to your tomatoes and in your outdoor garden among the cabbages and cauliflower as it does a great job in repelling insects.

Ingrid Wilcox operates Lubbock Garden and Floral Consultant and offers gardening, greenhouse and flower-arranging workshops. Contact her at [email protected]

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