Nasturtium has to be one of the hardiest flowers I have growing. It self seeds, it’s a good ground cover, the bees love the flowers and the whole plant is edible. To me that’s a perfect plant.
You can buy seeds to plant nasturtium but you can easily find someone who’s growing it and collect the seed pods or take a piece of plant with shallow roots and transplant it. Do this in autumn or spring. It will grow rampantly so be careful where you plant it. Because it has shallow roots it’s easy enough to pull up to stop it growing where you don’t want it.
Some areas in New Zealand can struggle to grow the plants. Frosts in winter and drought in summer can kill off plants. They usually grow back but save some seeds or pot up seedlings just in case. The Auckland summer of 2020 was terrible and most of my plants died – these are just coming back in some shady areas but I’ll need to look after them better next summer!
Flowers – the beautiful nasturtium flowers are edible. They have a peppery bite and look amazing in a salad or to garnish a dish. Cut the nectar spur and gently run water through it to dislodge ants in particular which might be lurking within.
If not eating immediately you can store the flowers in the fridge for up to a week. Put them in a container with a piece of damp paper towel in the bottom. I also leave a bit of the stem on if keeping it in the fridge or taking it to a dinner party as that seems to help keep it fresh.
Leaves and stems – the peppery leaves and stems are similar to rocket and can be used in pesto or fresh in a salad. Use the small leaves as the older leaves can taste bitter. Scroll down to see my green pesto recipe.
Seed pod – if you don’t pick and eat all your nasturtium flowers they will go to seed. These cute little seed pods can be pickled and used as capers. People call these ‘poor mans capers’ but it’s really only the texture that’s the same as usual capers.
Nasturtium pod ‘caper’ recipe
Collect a jar full of the seed pods. Depending on the size of your patch you will probably only have enough pods for a small jar at any one time. Collect the smallest pods you can as they are more tender. The pods grow in threes – divide these into singles and cut any large ones in half (see photo above). Prepare the pickling mixture – work backwards from the amount of pods you have and the size of the jar you’ll use to work out how much vinegar to use – Eg if you have 50g of pods and have a 100ml jar use 50ml of white wine vinegar
Simmer white wine vinegar, bay leaf, peppercorn, sugar, salt and other seeds that you have (eg mustard, celery). Fill your sterilised jar and store for a month before opening. Keep in the fridge onced opened.
Green leaf pesto recipe
I think pesto is subjective. There are loads of types to buy and various recipes on line but we all prefer something different. However you like pesto, it’s very easy to make. Pesto is a mix of greens, nuts, cheese, citrus, oil and garlic. Here’s a loose recipe, adapt to suit your preference –
- one handful of greens roughly diced. Use your preference and availability of leaves – nasturtium, coriander, basil, parsley, rocket (balance rocket with the peppery nasturtium leaves), a little bunching or spring onion. Use nutritious stems if your processor can break them down enough to make a paste
- nuts – pine, walnut, almond or a mix
- parmesan cheese – grated (use a hearty tasting one)
- lime or lemon juice – I prefer lime as it adds sweetness but use what you have
- olive oil
Blitz the nuts first. Then add lemon and/or lime juice, a little olive oil and the roughly diced greens. Blitz and add more olive oil, just enough to process the greens. Once the leaves are broken down add grated parmesan cheese and blitz to your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper if required.I don’t always use garlic as, although i love it, it can be overwhelming raw and I find the pepper of the nasturtium and rocket leaves adds enough bite.
Enjoy and eat your wild growing nasturtium!