At this time of year, nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are making a splash everywhere, in flower beds, in hanging baskets, in the forest garden – and in the wok and saucepan. Many people will know nasturtiums for their brightly coloured, peppery tasting flowers, but there is a lot more to their culinary use than that. All parts of the nasturtium – leaves, flowers and seeds – contain the aromatic oil that makes them taste similar to watercress, and all parts can be used in recipes that exploit this flavour. The flowers look spectacular in a salad or as a garnish and the leaves give an interesting twist to pesto. For me though, the biggest attraction is that all this colour and spice mask a less showy but equally useful side to nasturtium, as a very well flavoured green vegetable. dscf1133 If you cook nasturtium greens, you will be left in no doubt that the aromatic oils are being driven off, as the heady smell fills the kitchen. The surprise is what is left at the end: neither the cress flavour of the raw vegetable nor the bland taste that might be expected, but another taste entirely, distinctive and very pleasant. One way to enjoy this is as a pot herb or spinach. Fry a small onion and some garlic in a pan until soft, then throw in a good quantity of washed nasturtium leaves and a little extra water. Put the lid on and cook for a few minutes. You’ll smell the oil being driven off – once that is over the leaves are ready. The result not only has a nice flavour but also a good texture: soft and buttery. This is very nice as a side dish in its own right, or you could substitute nasturtium leaves for spinach in more complex dishes or mix them together with other leaves. Another way to use nasturtium is to harvest the soft growing tips, nipping off about 10 centimetres of growth, and use them in a stir fry. I add them near the end: they don’t need a lot of cooking and the ideal is if they keep a little of their cress flavour but not too much. dscf1142 Nasturtiums are prolific seeders, and this gives another great product: the pickled green seeds. These are often described as caper substitutes, but to my taste they are on a par with capers. Used in similar ways but with a different taste, I’m happy to have both available. There are great preparation instructions on Garden Betty’s blog. Nasturtiums like a well-drained soil, preferably in full sun. Growing guides tend to say that they do best in poor soil, but it is more accurate to say that they flower best in poor soil. They will grow quite happily in a rich soil, with lots of leaf growth. They are quite rampant and may smother plants that are too close, so give them a bit of space or plant them next to a taller plant that they can scramble up without inconveniencing too much. In my forest garden I have them planted next to some raspberries and also able to cascade over a low wall. The space next to them has wild garlic, which is well over before the nasturtiums really get going. Nasturtiums are annual but they produce lots of seed and often self seed; however, it’s still a good idea to save some seed over the winter so you can plant them where you want them. They can vary in vigour, flavour and size and the tips of some plants are a bit woody, so seed saving gives you a chance to propagate from your best plants. 20160912_181828 Nasturtium is a low maintenance plant with many benefits to the garden. But can you eat it? And if so, what can you make with it? This article explores the edible benefits of nasturtium and ways you can make use of this versatile plant in your kitchen at home. Nasturtium red flowers - tips for using nasturtium in the kitchen Firstly, yes, you can eat nasturtium. Nasturtium plants not only put on a pretty display of flowers, thereby making your garden more beautiful, you can also harvest the flowers, leaves, stems and seeds for eating. Nasturtium is usually eaten raw, though it is just as delicious cooked.

What Does Nasturtium Taste Like?

Flowers and leaves have a mild peppery taste. They are also described as tasting mildly spicy. They have been likened to the peppery taste of radish and watercress. If the flowers are too strong for your liking, you can remove the middle of the flower and use the petals only for a milder flavour. If leaves are too strong, shred them to sprinkle on your dish instead of using whole leaves to help dilute the flavour. The flower of nasturtium is milder than the leaves. A note on flavor: While many articles, books and blogs on the internet use the term ‘mild’ to describe the peppery spicy flavor of nasturtium, there are people who find that the taste nearly knocks them over. So consider a taste test from a neighbors garden before beginning your own culinary journey with nasturtium. And when you are ready to grow them yourself, you might like to read our article How to Grow Nasturtium in the Vegetable Garden.

Is There Any Nutritional Benefit To Eating Nasturtium?

Nasturtium flowers and leaves - tips for eating nasturtium Nasturtium flowers and leaves are very nutritious. They contain high levels of vitamin A, C and D. This makes them a great addition to your meals.

When To Harvest Nasturtium

Harvest flowers and leaves in the morning after the morning dew has dried but before the strong heat of the day. Earlier in the morning, they will still be plump with water with a milder flavour. As the day progresses, the plant can become affected by heat and produce a stronger flavour.

How To Prepare

Gently wash the leaves and flowers clean with cool water and leave them to dry naturally or pat dry with a paper towel. Use them within 24 hours or keep them in the fridge for up to three days if they are to be cooked.

  • Add leaves and flowers to a green salad. Use salad dressing sparingly on the flowers as they will wilt quickly. Or instead, consider dressing the salad without the flower blossoms and then place them on top of the dressed salad.
  • Stir-fry the leaves – Add them as you would any soft leafy green vegetable.
  • Saute the leaves – Gently cook diced onion and garlic in a pan with olive oil. When the onion is almost translucent, finish by adding washed nasturtium leaves to gently wilt and cook.
  • Add leaves to a green smoothie.
  • Chop leaves into a potato salad and/or add Nasturtium Capers (see recipe below).
  • Top pizza with nasturtium leaves in place of rocket. The similar spicy flavor makes a wonderful alternative.
  • Add the leaves to a pasta dish in place or in addition to baby spinach. You can blanch the leaves in boiling water before stirring through cooked pasta or simply add them raw and allow them to wilt from the hot pasta.
  • Use the leaves in place of grapevine leaves where they would be stuffed.
  • Stuff the flowers.
  • Decorate a drink, soup or dinner plate with nasturtium flowers. They make an impressive garnish.
  • Use flower blossoms and leaves in an omelet.

Nasturtium Seed Capers: Poor Man’s Capers

Nasturtium seeds - nasturtium capers recipe Nasturtium seeds are edible. The seeds form after the flower has finished, so you may have to decide if you want to eat the flower or wait for the seed. If you grow enough, you can do both. Make use of young seeds by pickling them in a brine. The end result is known as a poor man’s capers. Use only the firm young green nasturtium seeds for this recipe. It takes a good amount of nasturtium flowers to form enough seed to gather a cup of seeds.

Nasturtium Seed Capers Recipe: Poor Man’s Capers

Prep Time30 mins Cook Time15 mins Course: Appetizer, Side Dish Servings: 1 Cup

  • 1 Cup Young green nasturtium seeds
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup White wine vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon White Sugar
  • 1 Bayleaf
  • Optional: you can adjust this recipe with your own flavor combinations to include a few sprigs of thyme, slightly crushed peppercorns and/or garlic
  • Wash the nasturtium seeds.
  • Place the seeds in a clean bowl and cover them with water and the salt. Leave them on the kitchen bench for 2 days. This step helps to mellow the strong flavor.
  • Drain and rinse the seeds and pack them into a sterilized glass jar.
  • In a saucepan, bring the vinegar and sugar to a gentle simmer to dissolve the sugar.
  • Pour the liquid into the jar of nasturtium seed, ensuring all seeds are submerged under the liquid. Add the bay leaf and any other optional flavor enhances (mentioned above).
  • After the liquid has cooled, secure the lid on the jar and keep it in the fridge for up to six months.

How To Make Nasturtium Capers Recipe Nasturtium Capers or Poor Man’s Capers

Related: read more on how to grow your own herbs including thyme in our article Drought Hardy Herbs To Plant At Home.

Nasturtium Pesto

Make pesto with the leaves of nasturtium. I was inspired by a Matt Preston recipe for this pesto which is amazing in pasta, topping pizza or as a dip. Nasturtium Pesto Recipe

Nasturtium Pesto

Prep Time30 mins Cook Time5 mins Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack Servings: 6

  • 3 Cups Nasturtium leaves (25g)
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1/3 Cup Walnuts, roasted (50g). You can substitute for almonds, macadamias or pine nuts.
  • 2/3 Cup Parmesan cheese (50g)
  • 1/3 Cup Extra virgin olive oil (80ml)
  • 1/2 Lemon, jucied
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Wash the nasturtium leaves and drain off the excess water.
  • In a small pan, toast the walnuts.
  • In a food processor, blend the hot walnuts.
  • Add the garlic to the hot walnuts which will help to cook the garlic slightly.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend to preferred consistency; nasturtium leaves, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. As the leaves are already peppery, taste test before adding pepper.
  • Spoon pesto into a clean jar and store in the fridge for up to 10 days. You can also freeze the leftovers.

Related reading: How To Grow A Lemon Tree With Prolific Fruit At Home

How to make Nasturtium Pesto

Decorate A Cake

Cake with dried nasturtium flower decoration - tips for eating nasturtium Use whole nasturtium flowers to top cakes for impressive edible decoration. For something a little more unusual, dry the nasturtium flower petals and sprinkle them on the cake. To dry your own nasturtium flowers, carefully wash the flowers and gently them pat dry. Then lay them out on paper towel so they are not touching each other. Check to make sure there are no open doors or windows which might cause the flowers to blow away. Flowers should dry within 1-2 days. You can then remove individual flower petals for decorating your cake. Alternatively, if you have a dehydrator you can dry the flowers easily in it or in a very low oven. For an extra sweet touch, dried nasturtium flowers can be coated in egg white and sprinkled with caster sugar to crystallize. Whisk 1 or 2 egg whites to create a foamy texture. Using a small clean brush, gently paint the egg-white foam onto the flower. While the egg-white mixture is still wet on the flower, sprinkle with the sugar and place on a baking paper-lined tray to dry.

Top Your Sandwich With Nasturtium Garnish

Nasturtium flowers make a wonderful sandwich garnish. Nasturtium flowers garnish a sandwich - tips for eating nasturtium This open sandwich:

Ingredients:

Sliced dark rye bread Cottage cheese Watercress Red onion, thinly sliced Nasturtium flower to garnish

Conclusion

Nasturtium is a versatile addition to your garden and your kitchen. Once the plant is established and happy in the garden, it will self-seed, providing new plants for your food garden every year. The peppery taste spices up dishes and the attractive edible flower blossoms make any plate a show stopper.

Recommended Products

Nasturtium Seeds – Grow your own pretty Nasturtium Flowers and try eating the leaves, flowers and seeds. Food Processor – Turn nasturtium into pesto with a food processor. Food Dehydrator – this one is inexpensive and popular. A great choice to dehydrate nasturtium flowers for cake decorating. Preserving Jars – keep nasturtium capers and pesto in clean, sterilized jars. More recipes:

  • Tomato Chili And Ginger Jam Recipe
  • Oyster Mushroom Risotto Recipe
  • Sweet Salty Spicy Nuts Recipe
  • Basil And Corn Fritters

Further reading:

  • How to Grow Nasturtium in the Vegetable Garden
  • Can You Eat Radish Greens? (And How to Eat Them)
  • Eating Purslane the Edible Weed (with Recipe Ideas)
  • Eating Hops And Uses Beyond Beer
  • Why Is My Cabbage Bitter? Answered!

Turn nasturtium seeds into delicious capers, also known as Poor Man's Capers. This recipe shows you how #nasturtium #recipes #capers Via @plantfoodathome.com The vibrant edible flowers of the nasturtium are recommended for flavour and beauty. I won’t lie and tell you I wake up on a bright spring morning dreaming of growing and eating nasturtiums — that is reserved for mulberries, boysenberries, asparagus and their like — but quietly through the spring, summer and into autumn, they give me months of pleasure and in a great many ways. I know they are a little gauche — there’s something of granny’s handbag about them — but bear with me: there are perhaps a dozen excellent reasons to give them space in your garden. Firstly, you get delicious flowers and fine young leaves for salads. If you have yet to eat a nasturtium flower, make this spring the time to rectify that: together with courgette flowers, nasturtiums are the gateway into enjoying edible flowers. There are two essentials when eating this bloom: firstly, blow into the centre (eating a bee pleases neither party), and, secondly, for the full experience, eat the flower whole. The unravelling of flavours is quite unlike anything else in the garden: expect the taste of rocket, then honey as you reach the nectar at the centre and, finally, a generous hit of pepper right at the end. This pepperiness can be quite lively: nasturtium means ‘nose tweaker’, with reason. It is usually the case that the paler-yellow flowers are mildest and the more intense dark reds stronger. I eat most when wandering about the garden and I’d recommend them in a mixed-leaf salad — that combination
of pepper and sweetness brings superb punctuation to the leaves. They’re great tempura battered and deep fried, too. The young leaves are succulent, with a fresh, grassy, peppery flavour. Picked small and young, they are superb scattered through leafy salads and make an excellent pesto. Swizz a glass each of pine nuts, olive oil and pecorino with two glasses of small nasturtium leaves and a clove of garlic in a blender for the easiest of delicious sauces. The seeds are really good pickled, creating a delightful homegrown version of Mediterranean capers. They’re also supposed to stave off colds if eaten raw by the handful, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this. I remember one of the team back in the early River Cottage days trying this, and they steal your saliva to such a degree that he looked like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke trying to squeeze yet another egg in.

“Nasturtiums are great tempura-battered and deep fried”

Nasturtiums are wonderful companion plants. I use them as a living mulch: they grow so vigorously that they’ll keep out most annual weeds, help retain soil moisture and prevent soil erosion. They act as a sacrificial plant, with their leaves drawing cabbage-white caterpillars away from brassicas: this and their ability as a living mulch has me under-planting most of my brassicas with nasturtiums. They also repel a range of cucurbit beetles and bugs and attract black fly away from more vulnerable crops. If you grow them, you’ll notice quite a wealth of insects drawn to their flowers. In attracting pollinating and
predatory insects, nasturtiums help maintain a healthy ecological balance in the garden. Nasturtiums are so easy to grow. All you require is a packet of seed and the energy to cast its contents in the rough direction in which you would like to pick the flowers. They are so accommodating that you needn’t give them the best spot: they will thrive in poor soil, too. For a more considered approach, sow in spring and push the seed an inch or so beneath the surface at the sort of spacing you’d like them. Nasturtiums germinate and grow with enthusiasm. Expect colourful trumpet flowers from late spring well into autumn. You can pick young new leaves at any time through the growing season and the flowers, too; simply leave plenty of leaves for the plant to photosynthesise and flowers for the bees. The seeds can be picked reasonably freely through late autumn and into winter as they are produced in such profusion.

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A single packet is likely all you ever need buy: they will self-seed happily in subsequent years. If this fills you with horror, either collect the seed before it falls
or pull up young pålants as they emerge the following year. I mentioned about the typical impact of colour on flavour, so bear that in mind, but, if I had to recommend two varieties for flavour and beauty, they would be the dark-flowered ‘Black Velvet’ and ‘Tip Top Mahogany’. Mark Diacono grows edibles, both usual and unusual, at Otter Farm in Devon lowering nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) Credit: Alamy Mark Diacono tells us his top salads to plant to accompany barbecues this summer season.


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