Sunday, 25 September 2011


In this period of waste-not-want-not, a packet of Nasturtium seeds goes a long way. I once planted out a single seed packet of 5 years ago and I no longer need to do anything but wait for the plants to find their place in the early spring. Sow once and they stick with you for life with no effort or expense.
The seeds are huge but manage to travel around the garden through the compost and aided by the scratching of the chickens who seems to help the seeds self-sprout in the most out of the way places. I then just uproot them and move them around according to whim or plan....
Ranging from almost black to pale lemon, they not only attract the bees but also the black fly adore them and recently I noticed that their leaves sacrifice themselves to the  bloody cabbage fly who have taken a shine to their pepperiness. They are therefore the perfect mulch plant between young cabbages but also help retain moisture between other fragile and needy plants and they are so beautiful. 

Not only can you relish the flowers in a salad or fried in tempura batter and dipped in homemade mayonnaise, the young leaves can replace rocket in any recipe and make a fine pesto in the place of basil leaves and the seeds transformed into a 'poor mans caper' by brining them and then storing them in vinegar... As the flowers start to fade, the knobbly seed appears in a tricorne and need to be harvested green and fresh. The tasted spicy and peppery but once pickled, develop a taste similar to true capers.

When I run out of my Pantelleria salted capers that I picked up in Sicily in early spring, these will be just perfect in a tartare sauce with grilled fish, young steamed vegtables or added to a salad to give a little punch to any dressing..... but apparently they also help prevent the common cold as soon as you experience the first sniffle... and all for the price of a single seed packet!

Nasturtium Capers

100g fresh and green Nasturtium seed pods
300ml water
15g sea salt
A few sprigs of dill or tarragon
5 black peppercorns
200ml white wine vinegar

Dissolve the salt in the water. Place the seed pods in a bowl and pour over the cold brining water. Leave for 24 hours.
Drain the pods and dry well. Pack them into a small sterilised jar with the herb of your choice and the peppercorns. Pour over the vinegar, covering the seeds with 1cm to spare. Seal the jars with vinegar-proofed lids and leave for 3 weeks before trying. Eat within the year.