Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fun with Nasturtiums

 Nasturtiums pretty much grow like weeds here in California. Most people know these edible flowers have a nice spicy flavor that make a great addition to salads. But there are other things you can do with them as well. The whole plant is edible: flowers, young seeds, leafs and stalks. Here are a couple of other options for putting nasturtiums to use in your kitchen.:

I headed out around my neighborhood with bags in hand and collected both flowers and young seed pods.
Wild overgrown bush of nasturtiums
These flowers grow everywhere. I wondered around and collected from about 5 different patches in my neighbors front yards.

Young seed pods
 The seed pods grow in clusters of 3. You want to pick them when they are still green. As soon as they start to get tiny red spots or turn yellow its too late. They will be be woody and not very palatable.

I ended up with a full bag of flowers and just enough seed pods to fill a small jar.

The first thing I made was "Poor Mans Capers". Real capers are the seed pod of the caper bush, however, nasturtium seed pods taste remarkably similar when pickled.  I used the lacto-fermentation method of pickling for these.

Poor Man's Capers (lacto-fermented)
Young Nasturtium Seed Pods (enough to fill your jar with 1/2 inch space at the top)
zest from one lemon
1 small onion cut in to slices
clove of garlic cut in to 2-4 pieces
bay leaf ripped in half
3 or 4 small sprigs of thyme
about 6 pepper corns
1tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients (minus the salt) together in a bowl then empty in to your jar. The goal is to have the flavorings spread out somewhat evenly. Sprinkle in the salt then fill with water up to the top. Put cap on jar then shake well to dissolve the salt. Uncap the jar, place inside a dish (to catch any liquid that might spill over), then top with a plastic bag filled with just enough water to seal off the entire opening of the jar. Make sure all organic material is under water and not touching air. Let sit to lacto-ferment for 6 days. You should see a good amount of bubbles forming and the liquid should smell sour. 
You can use these capers the same way you can use the real deal. The only difference is these ones will cost you next to nothing, be hyper local, handmade, and great for your digestion.

The next thing I made was a quick tasty dressing/sauce using the nasturtium flowers.

Nasturtium Flower Dressing/Sauce
6 cups of loose nasturtium flowers (or one produce bag full)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in blender and process till smooth. 

This is a super basic recipe. Feel free to play with the ingredients. Add herbs from your garden, try a different type of oil/vinegar, or add other edible flowers. Each new ingredient will change the flavor just a little bit. Mess around till you find your perfect combo.

I used this sauce as a flavoring for a vegetable quinoa dish I made (below). I love the bright orange color and could imagine using this as a salad dressing, sauce on meat, or dip.

Quinoa with garden vegetables and Nasturtium dressing


  1. The faux capers sound awesome, thanks for sharing this -- I'm glad to have something else to do with the "weeds" growing along our driveway :]

  2. Just stumbled upon your blog (googling girl bikers -- I just bought a bike after not having rode one since I was 12 and am looking for inspiration) and I love it! Perfect mixture of things I'm already interested in (sustainability) and things that seem baffling but fascinating (fermentation!?) Excited to go through the archives :)