“Isn’t that poisonous?” someone else said “Wouldn’t that be a funny headline, San Anslemo Garden Exchange poisoned with nasturtiums.”
Cross my heart . . . I promise that you can eat any and every part of a nasturtium plant (I did the research the second I came home this morning). Today was the first of many garden exchanges in San Anselmo, a weekly roundup of the members from the community exchanging bounty from their garden. I panicked all week due to the lack of vegetables in my garden. The zucchini has exploded with leaves and yellow blossoms but I wasn’t ready to rob my plant of its first zucchini, the tomatoes are dotted with flowers but I don’t think it will get tomatoes for another month and we just reseeded our lettuce a week ago. The only thing in abundance are bees, lavender and nasturtiums.
Nasturtiums are great in the garden, they are a self seeding plant that plant snakes through the garden, inching between your plants and creeping up fences and walls. Some might consider nasturtiums on the invasive side, but I love the way they fill the space in my garden. The leaves in both shape and color always look like they are ready to pop! A childhood friend of mine would always have a carrot cake for her birthday adorned with a ring of nasturtium flowers that added a zing to the sweet cream cheese frosting. Having a fresh and peppery taste, the flowers range from a pale yellow to a flaming red and taste great in salads. After some research I found that the seed pods can be pickled and used in place of capers and one recipe used nasturtiums in a pepper jelly. I decided to keep it on the simple side and experiment with a nasturtium pesto.
Today’s garden exchange brought lemons, pea pods, zucchini, lovage, some of the best arugula I’ve tasted in my life, fresh eggs, seeds that gardeners saved up from last year and a bunch of starter vegetables donated by the nearby nursery. One of the regulars occupied a full table with his zesty homemade red wine vinegar, a variety of dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and gourmet treats for the dogs.
I dissected my nasturtiums, placing the flowers and leaves in one bowl and the seed pods in another small bowl, serving the nasturtium pesto with some plain water crackers on the side. Initially I had to coax people into trying the pesto, but after everyone was reassured that nasturtiums were not poisonous the word spread. Someone told me that I should mass produce my nasturtium pesto and sell it at farmers markets, another woman started tossing the seed pods into their mouth – “these are like fresh wasabi peas!”
I’m a little disappointed I didn’t experiment with nasturtiums sooner. I don’t think nasturtiums will be the newest fad in the foodie world but do me this favor, if you see a nasturtium plant walking down the street, or if you have a one in your garden, grab couple of vines and blend up up a pesto. You’ll be surprised!
Yields about 1 cup of pesto
1 heaping cup of nasturtium flowers, stems and leaves
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
1 clove of garlic
1/8 cup of shredded Parmesan
Approximately 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
If you have a food processor, put the nasturtium, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan into the food processor. Turn the processor on, while the blade is spinning pour the olive oil through the opening on the top of the food processor. Continue to blend until the texture is consistent. You might need to push some of the ingredients down off the side of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
For those of you who do not have a food processor, using a pestle and mortar works, or just chop the nasturtium, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan (and keep chopping for a long long time) until the ingredients are so fine that you can press them into a loose ball. Place the chopped up ingredients into a bowl, add your olive oil and serve
* Olive oil – I always vary the amount of olive oil I use in my pesto. If I’m making a pesto crusted salmon, I like the pesto to be on the thick side, for pastas I like my pesto to be on the runny side.
* Color – If you prefer to have a more green pesto omit the flowers. If you want a red or orange colored pesto omit the leaves and the stems.
Pesto is fun to make and an extremely flexible recipe. You really can’t mix it up and you can substitute anything. For example, if you don’t have pine nuts on hand try almonds or walnuts!