What are nasturtiums?
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Nasturtium is a perennial in the Brassica (cabbage) family with edible gray-green leaves that look a bit like water lily pads, vivid flowers in a range of colors, and buds (actually seed pods). Related to watercress the leaves and stems add a peppery accent to salads and sandwiches. The name comes from the Latin for “nose-twister” which gives some insight into their pungent nature. The blossoms may be minced and used to flavor butter, cream cheese, or vinegar, and whole flowers are a colorful and zesty addition to salads, or as an edible garnish. In Victorian times the pickled unopened buds have been used in the stead of capers.
Read more about pickled nasturtium seedpods in author Annabel Hughes Making Capers from Nasturtiums in Zambia, Africa, with a recipe for new potato salad, inspired by Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook. Annabel writes: “Poor Man’s Capers, as referred to by some—a terrific substitute for regular capers. They are slightly larger and crunchier, but still piquant and peppery. I’ve eaten them as a replacement for cornichons, with cheese and cold meats. I’ve added them as a key ingredient in salsa verde and puttanesca sauce.”
Here’s a simple recipe:
Pickled Nasturtium Buds (Poor Man’s Capers)
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 ¼ cups water
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups or so caper buds, rinsed
sprigs of fresh dill
Boil together the vinegar, water, salt and sugar stirring until dissolved.
Place a garlic clove, a dill frond and a few peppercorns in the bottom of several clean and rinsed with boiling water pint jars. Pack clean nasturtium seeds into jars. Pour in hot brine allowing for a half inch of headspace. All seeds should be covered with brine.
For refrigerator pickles, let cool 10 minutes, cover jars, and place in the refrigerator. Pickles will be ready after 24 hours, and will keep for a month or so. If water-bath canning, follow standard safety procedures