Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Seasonal Recipe: Nasturtium 'Capers'

In the second year on my allotment, I sowed a freebie packet of mixed nasturtium seeds to draw nasties like blackfly away from my crops. Their cheerful orange and yellow blooms were a most decorative addition, even though they declined to climb up the arch provided but decided to sprawl over my beds instead. And yes, blackfly were drawn to them like a magnet.

Since then, I've had tons of nasturtiums blooming away at the bottom of my plot every year. I've tried in vain to keep them under control, but to no avail - even last year's 'Chelsea chop' experiment only dented them for a little while. I don't really mind their presence, after all they are attractive and I've even managed to persuade NAH the leaves and flowers are a great addition to our salads. As he doesn't take too kindly to vegetables at all, I'm surprised he's cheerfully eating flowers, but then their peppery flavour is very similar to the watercress he loves.

I've been aware for a while we're not taking full advantage of the seeds, which are also edible: they can be pickled and used like capers. Now, we do eat quite a lot of capers - on pizzas for instance - so it makes sense to give them a try. I'm sure there'll still be plenty of seeds left over to self-sow themselves next year. BTW I'm also getting velvety red flowers these days as well as the orange and yellows from the original mix - aren't they great?

I've used the recipe from River Cottage's Preserves: in there it says not to use the seeds tinged with red, but doesn't explain why. I tasted both the reddish and green seeds prior to pickling and couldn't detect any difference: they both had that characteristic nose blow inducing hot pepperiness I love. I've separated out the reddish seeds from the green ones and I've pickled a jar of each, for comparison purposes.

Ingredients
15g salt
100g nasturtium seed pods
A few peppercorns (optional - I used them)
Herbs, such as dill or tarragon sprigs, or bay leaves (optional - I used bay leaves)
200ml white wine vinegar


Method

  1. Make a light brine by dissolving the salt in 300ml water
  2. Separate out the seeds from any stalks or other plant parts and compost the latter. Also discard any seeds which are yellow or brown, these won't be tender and flavoursome after pickling
  3. Put the remaining seeds into a bowl and cover with the cold brine. Leave for 24 hours
  4. Drain the seed pods and dry well
  5. Pack them into small, sterilised jars with the peppercorns and herbs, if using, and leaving 1cm at the top so the vinegar will cover the seeds well
  6. Cover the seeds with vinegar and seal the jars with sterilised vinegar-proof lids
  7. Store in a cool, dark place and leave for a few weeks before eating. Use within a year.
Makes 2 x 115g jars.
NB If you've got a lot of windfall apples, especially after last week's gales, you might like to try my delicious recipe for Windfall Cake from last year. I'm also enjoying stewed windfall apples (finely chopped and microwaved for a couple of minutes) with my daily bowl of porridge for breakfast at the moment :)

14 comments:

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  2. I didnt know you could eat the seeds - might try this next year

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  3. I've always wondered if nasturtium 'capers' tasted liked capers, but have never plucked up the courage to try them. Would you say they're a good substitute for the storecupboard staple?

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  4. I've looked everywhere for some nasturtium flowers for our new tortoise! Can't find any in Chippenham, so if you see someone lurking at the allotments...

    When we were kids they seeemd to be everywhere - much loved by the caterpillars of Large White butterflies

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  5. Wow, VP! First of all, let me say how awed I am that your nasturtiums self-sow! I adore nasturtiums---they're one of my earliest scent-memories, from when my grandmother grew them when I was two years old. But I thought you pickled the buds, not the seeds, to make the "capers." Love the windfall cake recipe too. Thanks!

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  6. My mother used to make nasturtium capers every year, in the 1950s. They're delicious. In fact I didn't know about real capers until I was a teenager. I thought 'caper' was just a name for pickled nasturtium seed.

    She used to get them quite young. If you let the seeds get too mature they're horrible. Like chewing vinegary shavings - as I learnt to my cost when I tried making them.

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  7. I like that colour, as I do yellow but I'm not so keen on the vivid orange-red ones! xx

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  8. Thank you VP for the recipe and thank you for reminding me of this excellent idea!

    Have a great weekend/ Tyra

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  9. huh! I'll check back to see how the nasturtium capers turned out. that is so intriguing.

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  10. pollicino - welcome and thanks for your visit. I only link to people on my sidebar whom I've either met or have a regular comment exchange with. So sadly, the answer's no for the moment, but if we get a dialogue going...

    PG - I'll let you know how I get on and do take heed of Nige's warning

    Mark - would you like some? I've got loads.

    OFB - they're that good at self-sowing I'm glad they're in a spot where there's room for them! They completely engulfed my onions whilst they were ripening for harvest.

    Nige - oh dear, I think I might have quite a few in that jar which will turn out to be duds. Will report back later. Thanks for the tip though, I'll make sure I just pick all the itsy bitsy ones the next time...

    Flighty - I've tagged the red ones so I can make sure their seed grows next year. However, I suspect they won't come true to type.

    Tyra - I thought this would be the kind of thing you do already?

    Muum - welcome and thanks for following :) Having read Nige's comment, I feel duty bound to report back on the outcome in a few weeks!

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  11. Thanks for sharing this. I've just been out and harvested a jar full of nasturtium seeds from the back garden and I'm giving this a go for the first time. Looking forward to trying them in a few weeks.

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  12. John Patrick - glad you found it useful. Let me know how you got on :)

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  13. They worked out great thanks. I popped some thyme in with them as I had some handy. I've just picked enough for a second jar, along with a little harvest of coriander seeds to try with them this time.

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  14. Jihn Patrick - thanks for coming back :) I like the sound of using thyme - I'll try that next year. Coriander sounds good too - it has such a warming flavour - I use it a lot in pumpkin or squash soups.

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