PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum)

Mashua is an unusual climbing nasturtium from the Andes Mountains region around Peru and Bolivia. You can grow it as an ornamental, and it never fails to delight, but the best part is in the eating of it.

Like any other nasturtiums, Mashua’s leaves and flowers are tasty. Leaves taste like lettuce with a spicy mustard-like zing. Flowers are similar but sweetened with the nectar deep at the base of the bloom. If you eat the flowers, prepare to receive a hard stink-eye from your local hummingbirds for stealing their food.

Mashua takes all this to another level by also producing tubers in late autumn to early winter. These look like milky white, oddly segmented carrots with purple streaks. Raw, they have an unexpected flavor (not bad, just…odd). It’s kind of like radish mixed with fennel and crispy & juicy like jicama. Cooked, the texture is like a silky smooth potato and the flavors found in the raw form tone down to being more like potato – potato with hints and allegations of other flavors. The tubers are really great in a quick vinegar pickle.

The plant is always searching for something to climb on. If you don’t provide it, Mashua will use anything upright to grow on. We let ours scramble into nearby trees. They can easily get 10-12 feet. Mashua blooms in late November and the day-glo orange tubular flowers look amazing tangled into the tree branches. Leave a tuber or two in the ground for next year’s plants.