Is it wrong to admire the beauty of something then chow it down? Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are not just pretty…they’re a tasty multipurpose powerhouse. They self seed, are ridiculously easy to grow, look after themselves, pests don’t eat them, attract pollinators, and they keep nasty bugs away from other plants. Nutritionally they are high in Vitamin C, contain flavonoids and boast anti fungal properties. Being a lazy gardener, nasturtiums are perfection. All they need is full sun with moist, well drained soil (Spring and Autumn are good times to plant). I have been growing a jewel mix for years with pretty yellow, orange and red flowers (I only planted the once!). Just remember to trim them back if you don’t want them to dominate your life completely. I let them go feral and grow through everything because it helps keep the nasties away.
This may or may not be breaking news but you can use every part of the nasturtium plant; the seeds, leaves and flowers. They are actually herbs! The leaves and flowers taste pretty similar (and to how they smell) with a peppery, sweet flavour so you can substitute them for rocket or watercress. I mainly use the flowers and leaves in salads but they also look fantastic on cakes and for decorating dishes. You can use the leaves to flavour butter or cream cheese or put a handful of flowers in white wine vinegar (for a few days) and reap the reward of peppery vinegar. You can also use the seed pods as a replacement for capers. Mind blown! I often make aioli so I add some nasturtium leaves at the end to give it a peppery hit that will go nicely with my polenta chips.
N A S T U R T I U M A I O L I
1 very fresh organic egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup sunflower oil
2 teaspoons of finely chopped nasturtium leaves
good quality salt
You can use a food processor or give yourself a work out and use a whisk (I tend to use my food processor). Whiz the egg, lemon juice and garlic until well combined then add the oil very slowly while the motor is running (or whisking) to emulsify. Process until it thickens and becomes beautiful and creamy. Add salt to taste along the way. Stir in the nasturtium leaves at the end and give it a bit of time in the fridge so the flavours can get friendly.