Mashua: AKA Perennial Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are my favourite plant ever – one of my earliest memories is of drinking rain drops out of their leaves (cause that’s how the fairies did it) and they’ve really stuck with me ever since. As I grew older I loved the fact the you can eat the leaves, flowers and make ‘poor man capers’ out of the seed pods, plus they’re a great living mulch in the garden, attract beneficial insects and easy on the eye.

Over the years I’ve planted them in pretty much every house I’ve lived in and these days I have a giant mural of them on our bathroom wall. I even took it to the next level and requested that Anton (my now husband) sew my wedding dress so it depicted a nasturtium patch… And he did – it’s amazing, as is he. So when I found out that there’s a perennial nasturtium (called mashua) only less than a year ago – well, I got excited.

Mashua-PhotosImage from here

It’s official name is Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) and it was traditionally grown in South America as a root crop. That’s right people, you can eat the leaves, flower AND TUBERS. I know, amazing.

While it is a perennial, it’s sensitive to frost and cold so will die back in winter and grow fresh plants from new tubers in spring. So late winter is the time to pull it up, subdivide all those tubers for eating and/or growing.

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It grows rampantly as a climber or ground cover and the flowers and leaves are similar to the common nasturtium plant, but have their own twist.

mashua-Pilifera-plant-1024x767Image from here

IMG_3939The leaves die back as the cold sets in with winter

As this was the first time we grew the plant, we just watched to see what would happen. They spread out under our fruit trees, had a half hearted go at flowering (it was a bit cold) and then slowly started to shut down and go ‘green/brown’ as winter set in.

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In recent weeks we started weeding the orchard and noticed a plethora of tubers at the base of each plant. Up until then, we didn’t realise that (a) they had such prolific tuber production and, (b) you could eat them. It was a happy day of discoveries that one. So far we’ve only tried eating them roasted (just like potatoes), sadly we weren’t in love with their taste, but will keep trying different recipes until we are.

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And they’re beautiful, don’t you think? We’ve currently got a big bowl of them in our house and each friend who comes through leaves with at least one in their pocket to have a go in their own gardens. Plus we’ve sent some over to the Hobart City Farm to grow in their perennial beds. Gotta spread the love round.

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We’re feeling a bit ‘mashua rich’ at the moment – all this loot came  from one plant.

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From what we can gather, mashua generally grows in a temperate climate and, like seed potatoes you can cut each one into smaller bits, with each one becoming its own plant. If you do this, just make sure each piece has at least two eyes (the dimply depressions) on it and that you harden them off so the cut can dry out and form a callus.

Where can you get your own mashua plant?

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tasmania, visit Provenance Growers at the Hobart Farm Gate Market and they’ll sort you out. If you’re in the US, I found this fantastic mob called Cultivariable who stock it, plus a million other great, lesser known food plants.

Good articles & blogs

10 Responses to “Mashua: AKA Perennial Nasturtium”

  1. Linda Cockburn

    Hi Hannah,
    Can you tell me if they’re any good for animal food – raw? I’m thinking they’d be good to set up as an understorey in the orchard areas and let the chooks in over winter, perhaps a good way to feed them/remove insect pests and increase soil carbon at the same time?
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hey Linda,

      I’m not sure. Raw tubers might be ok for animals like pigs and larger livestock but I can’t imagine chooks having much luck with them – the leaves however might be fine. It’s a new plant for me so I don’t have a lot of deep knowledge about it. I’m planning on talking to Paulette from Provenance Growers (where I originally got it from) to find out more about it. Cheers 🙂

      Reply
  2. Joanne Bellotti

    Please let us know when you find the good way to prepare them. Also, I would love to see the mural and the dress if it wasn’t an imposition!

    Reply
  3. Paddy

    An article by Travis A. Clark gives a quite detailed description of its history and uses – the suggestion that it might be used in a stew was interesting.
    The article mentioned that Aztec rulers used it as an anti-aphrodisiac so that their soldiers “would forget their wives” – so it might be a case of moderation in use!
    Is there a danger that it might become a rampant pest like oxalis? A larger version of your mint container might be a safe way to grow it.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Well that’s interesting Paddy – thanks.
      While we’ve only grown it for one season, it has a very different growing pattern to mint (doesn’t have runners like mint) so I’m not concerned about that. Cheeers

      Reply
  4. ITS A NASTURTIUM FLOWER | Your Garden Our World

    […] NASTURTIUM HAS MANY USES IN A EDIBLE GARDEN INSPIRED BY PERMACULTURE GARDENING. These beautiful flowering ground cover plants can spread very quickly but make great ground cover plants for larger trees and of course are an edible plant flower and all, similar taste to rocket leaves great in salads. To top that off the flowers help repel garden unwanted pests..check out http://goodlifepermaculture.com.au/mashua-aka-perennial-nasturtium/ […]

    Reply

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