How to Spice Up Your Recipes with Nasturtiums

How to Spice Up Your Recipes with Nasturtiums

Though Nasturtium flowers are perfectly edible, I find that dinner guests often hesitate when first encountering it on their plate – the colourful, fresh flowers look wild, exotic, and inedible. Nasturtium seeds and leaves (which can also be used in cooking) inspire even more distrust! It seems as though we have a certain pre-established spectrum of fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs that fall into the category of “food,” and anything conventionally on the outside of the spectrum is greeted with suspicion.  

I’m here to make a brief public service announcement: nasturtiums mean you no harm!

Nasturtiums are not the only flowers fit for human consumption:  lavender, calendula, carnations, pansies, day lilies, thyme, dill, and squash plants all produce edible flowers as well. You could delve into a whole new world of culinary experimentation with this diverse, vibrant bouquet ready and waiting in your backyard garden. Why restrict yourself to the conventional? 

If it still seems intimidating or a bit too rabbit-like to chomp down on flower petals, nasturtiums are a great first foray into the world of all-natural farm-to-table cooking. They can be added into many favourite Australian recipes to add a gentle, fresh zing to the plate – that’s right, these sweet-looking flowers actually have quite a peppery zip to them. 

Nasturtium Salad

During springtime in Australia, nasturtium flowers are lovely companions for freshly harvested herbs and salad greens. Stroll through your vegie patches, herb garden, and flower beds. A mix of assorted lettuces, spinach, and meslcun makes a solid base salad. Bits of parsley and basil add more depth of flavour. Cut, wash and toss your harvest with nasturtium flowers and apple cider vinegar and lemon for a light, simple salad. Enjoy the full bounty of your spring garden. 

Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers
10 whole nasturtium flowers
225 grams organic cream cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons onion, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chives, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste

Nasturtium flowers don’t keep well, so they should be harvested no more than 1-2 hours before preparation and should be refrigerated until it’s time to start cooking. Gently rinse the flowers and dab them until dry. Blend the cream cheese with the rest of the ingredients and dollop 2-3 spoonfuls of the filling into each flower. No cooking required – these can be served up immediately! I bring them out as an appetiser before barbeques. They are also delicious served alongside and traditional Australian fish platters, as the cream cheese is a great complementary flavour. 

Modern Australian cooking really loves to use capers – I favour them in baked fish or grilled tuna steak recipes, really anything involving seafood. Rather than springing at the supermarket for a jar of capers, I’ve found a delicious, peppery, farm-grown replacement in pickled nasturtium seeds.

Pickled Nasturtium Seeds
1/2 cup unripe (green) nasturtium seeds
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup water
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon raw sugar
3 fresh bay leaves
1-2 sprigs fresh dill
1 spring fresh thyme

Wash the seeds and place them in a medium-sized, tight-sealing jar. Boil salt and water in a small saucepan and pour over the seeds. Leave the seeds in saltwater for three days and then pour out the water. In a small saucepan bring the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, dill and thyme to a boil and pour over the nasturtium seeds. Seal the jar. After three days of soaking, your seeds will be pickled and ready for use. They can survive storage for 7-8 months this way, so make as many as possible to last you throughout the year! 

Nasturtium Butter
125 grams organic unsalted butter, softened
1 cup nasturtium petals, separated

Harvest your nasturtium flowers and separate the petals. Float them in a bowl of water to wash away insects and garden debris. Place the petals on a clean kitchen towel and gently dry them off. Using a mortar and pestle, grind up the flowers in a paste. Cream this into the softened butter. Once thoroughly mixed, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The result is a colourful, lively butter flaked with bits of red and orange. 

This butter has a complex yet delicate flavour that livens up any bread or cracker. I’ll spread it on top of SAO crackers, Damper bread, you name it! You may also cook with it to add a unique and subtle touch of flavour when melted over cooking meat, chicken or fish.