Nasturtiums


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Nasturtiums come in varieties ranging from trailing to upright and in brilliant sunset colors with peppery flavors. Nasturtiums rank among most common edible flowers. Blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse. Leaves add peppery tang to salads. Pickled seed pods are less expensive substitute for capers. Use entire flowers to garnish platters, salads, cheese tortas, open-faced sandwiches, and savory appetizers.

Use the blossoms whole or chopped to decorate creamy soups, salads, butters, cakes and platters. Their sweet, peppery taste (both in the leaves and in the flowers) adds to the enjoyment. The tangy taste gives it its common name. From the Latin “Nasus Tortus” meaning convulsed nose, referring to the faces people made when tasting the spicy plant. Its scientific name is Tropaeolum majus.  The edible leaves can be harvested as soon as several leaves are on the plant. Like any leaf type of plant, they taste better when young and older leaves can be bitter. Related to the cress family, Nasturtiums have a slightly pepper taste. The flowers are also edible, but have less taste. Try using the seeds in pickling for a somewhat different taste.

Unlike most of our more common kitchen herbs, which originate in the Mediterranean region, nasturtiums are from South America. The conquistadors brought these brightly colored plants back to Spain in the 1500’s. The Indians of Peru used the leaves as a tea to treat coughs, colds and the flu, as well as menstrual and respiratory difficulties. Being high in vitamin C, nasturtiums act as a natural antibiotic, and as such were used topically as a poultice for minor cuts and scratches. Nasturtiums are also used in Ayurvedic medicine. The leaves are rubbed on the gums to stimulate and cleanse them. Because of it origins, early English herbalists referred to nasturtiums as “Indian cress.”

Once introduced to European gardens, nasturtium’s popularity caught on. Monet was rather fond of them and planted them in the border of the pathway that led to the front door of his home in Giverny. Later, during World War Two, dried ground nasturtium seeds were used as a substitute for black pepper, which was unattainable.

Nasturtium Mayonnaise

makes 8 servings as a sauce for fish

This recipe is the perfect compliment to chilled summer salmon, or any fish, fresh off the grill. Also makes a great spread for tea sandwiches, or any sandwich needing some zip.

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 tsp. finely minced garlic

2 tsp. coarsely chopped capers

1/3 tsp. grated lemon peel

2 tsp. chopped nasturtium leaves

Combine all ingredients. Keep chilled until ready to use.

More recipes to follow.

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2 Responses

  1. Very interesting. I have lots of nasturtiums in my garden and use them extensively in food. Once a year I make a few jars of pickled seeds and they make great gifts.

  2. Pickled seeds. I don’t think I have that recipe. I could pass it on to my old gardening group too.

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