So firstly, I hear you ask, Nasturtiums? That’s gardening what has that got to do with chiropractic? Well food and herbs are health related! It also means I have to do absolutely no research for this blog, as it is all in my memory bank.
Nasturtiums are an amazing plant that every gardener should have. Firstly they are super easy to grow, fast growing, need very little attention, are extremely hardy, and almost unkillable (for most people!). They tolerate salt, wind, hot to cold, semi-shade, damp, and poor soil. I will say though, in the right conditions they can take over, but they can also be easily ripped out and put in the compost.
They are prolific producers of flowers (less in partial shade) which means their nectar attracts bees and other pollinating insects.
Nasturtiums can be grown as a climber and used in a vertical garden if space is tight, or you just want to hide the fence (they will need a trellis or support and the occasional training). They cascade beautifully or can be grown prostrate.
Every part of the nasturtium is edible. The leaves and flowers have a mildly peppery flavour that is sweetish (similar to watercress). They are packed with vitamin C and contain manganese, iron, flavonoids, vitamins B1, B2, B3, calcium and beta carotene. The flowers make a colourful addition to any salad, and the leaves can be added to any salad you make or used to make a pesto (recipe below).
When the flower dies off, a seed head forms. The seed head also tastes peppery. Every flower produces 2-3 new pale green seeds. If you don’t pick and save these, they will voluntarily drop to the ground and self-sow. You can use the seeds in many ways. Dry and grind to make your own pepper, eat raw in salads or as a snack, or pickle them and use as a caper substitute (recipe below).
Nasturtium leaf pesto
2 cups nasturtium leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced nasturtium stems
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or nut of choice
4 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Wash the leaves and stems, drain and set aside.Place leaves, pine nuts, garlic, and oil in the jar of a blender; blend until smooth. Add more oil if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.
Nasurtium Capers (time 5 minutes)
1 cup Nasturtium seeds (still firm and green)
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
5 to 8 peppercorns (slightly crushed)
Rinse and drain the nasturtium seeds and blot them well on paper towels. Pour the seeds into a 500ml jar. Bring the vinegar, salt, and pepper to a boil and pour over the seeds. Seal and refrigerate the jar, then let them sit for up to 3 months. Enjoy!
NB you can also add herbs and garlic for more of a zing!
If you are into fermenting and wanting more probiotics into your diet then you can also ferment the capers:
25 grams kosher salt 1.5 tablespoon
500 grams water 2 cups
Nasturtium seed pods 1 cup, rinsed clean
- Combine the water and salt and whisk to dissolve. Pour the salt water in to a mason jar or other conatiner and add the nasturtium seed pods, then screw on the lid.
- Leave the jar on the counter for 3 days to start fermenting, or leave out a bit longer if you want them to sour more quickly, then transfer to the fridge. Open the jar here and there to check on the capers and release carbon dioxide and to make sure water doesn’t evacuate. I often put mason jars of ferments in another larger container to catch possible drips.
- After about 2 weeks the capers should have a nice flavor, but if you leave them in the fridge longer they will continue to age and develop until the pH is as low as it can go. More or less, the longer they sit, the better they will get, and you can let your palette be your guide.
Salt Ratios : The proportions listed will give you a 5% brine if you use a either a scale or volume measurements (cups, etc). From there, you just need enough of the brine to cover the amount of nasturtium pods you have. It’s a good idea to make sure the seed pods are covered with more brine than you think you’ll need. 2 cups of water will cover 1 cup of nasturtium capers just fine. Make sure not to pack the jars too full, since water can evacuate during the fermentation process.