Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Wonders of Nasturtiums

In our garden we generally like to stick to growing plants that we can eat or use in some way.  There are some exceptions for aesthetic reasons alone but on the whole if we can't eat it, make it into plant food or use it to distract pests from our valuable food crops, it is hard to find space for it in our garden. 
Saved seed ready to be planted this year
Nasturtiums manage to look good and yet also provide for us in many ways so we always sow a few saved seeds or make space for them as they busily self seed each year.  They are a great sacrificial crop to distract black fly and cabbage white butterfly invasions (although it is always sad to see them devoured in the late summer).  In addition, and if we get to them before said pests, we eat the leaves and flowers in salads.  However not many people know you can also pickle the fresh green seeds.

Poor Man's Capers

Known as 'Poor Mans Capers', pickled nasturtium seeds are far from 'playing second fiddle' to the real and more well known form of caper.  These crunchy home-grown versions are a welcome addition to salads and pep up savoury Mediterranean style dishes. 
Here's the simple way I make them -
Pick them whilst still fresh, plump and green.  Measure how many seeds you have and then measure out an equal amount of vinegar (white wine, red wine or cider).  Wash, drain and dry the seeds and pop them in a jar.  Meanwhile boil up the vinegar with a little bit of salt (to taste but a rough guide would be 1 teaspoon to one cup of vinegar), a few crushed peppercorns, some pickling spices, sliced onion if you like, lemon zest if you like, even chilli if you like!  Simmer for 5 minutes then cool before pouring into jar with seeds and sealing. They are about ready in a week and will keep for months in the fridge.  This jar I made last Autumn is still good!

So keep a place in your garden and your heart for these rampant but colourful characters as they are more than just a pretty face when it comes to contributing to the edible garden.

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