Monday, 12 June 2017

Today's Favourite.........Nasturtiums

So Nasturtiums.........
What is not to love? They come in every flower colour from deepest crimson to pale tones of creamy yellow. Some of them have mottled leaves, some are green and some are even a bluey tone. They grow really easily from seed, and can be sown in situ and still be relied on to grow. The happily trail over a wall, or live in a hanging basket, asking only for watering and little else.  They are a great plant for those areas where you can see the bare earth and will clamber through other plants, making a border rich with colour. Of course they will also tempt the blackfly away from your roses and tomatoes, and will get going early in the season for companion planting in a polytunnel or glasshouse and be ready long before the traditional tagetes.
But what I love about them most is that in terms of edible plants they are amazingly good doers. The flowers offer their peppery taste to salads and also add that flash of beautiful colour to the bowl of mainly green. It adds a touch of glamour and decadence, and who doesn't like that? of course the leaves also offer a peppery hit to a salad and are not to be treated as second class citizens. In particular is the variety Blue Pepo, a unique variety bred for it's steel blue leaves, which are delicious and add another layer of colour to a summer salad.
And finally of course are the seeds which can be used to make what is known as "poor man's capers". They are delicious and can be used instead of capers in dishes and are amazingly simple to make. Below is the recipe from the River Cottage Preserved book, which has been my go to recipe book for all things pickled and preserved for many a year!!

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

  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. 

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