In my garden a bright jungle of colourful nasturtiums are rejoicing in the surprisingly warm sunshine-y October weather.  After a summer of taking their prolific spiciness for granted, I’m keen to preserve what I can before the weather turns colder….

Nasturtiums are not frost hardy and if the forecasts are accurate, my gorgeous plants may be little more than a frozen drooping memory by next weekend. In my back garden, the plants are climbing and  spreading all over their neighbours and rather thoughtfully across a pile of wood-that-is-waiting-to-be-useful-for-something,  making me feel much better that I haven’t got round to using it yet!

Aware that time is running out, I’ve been gathering and preserving the leaves and flowers. I’ve also collected green seeds and flower buds, to pickle as Country Capers (fantastic in a homemade tomato sauce, the recipe is in my new book).

This is a forecast for Bruton (from  Netweather) for the next 10 days – the temperatures are ‘feels like’ rather than actual, taking into account cold winds: all forecasts agree it’s certainly looking chillier after Wednesday. It’s perfectly normal for the time of year but I’ve got used to gardening in my t shirt 🙂

Tomorrow I will be making sure all tender potted plants are in the house  or undercover in the greenhouse or polytunnel, depending on their frost hardiness. I also need to harvest all of the chillies still growing in my polytunnel.

Back to the nasturtiums: after harvesting everything that I need, I’ll compost the nasturtiums growing over my wood pile (much easier to remove alive plants than frosted), checking for seeds as I go. I’ll dry any brown seeds that I find for next year’s plants* and also for nasturtium shoots this winter:

(* Spread the brown seeds across some blue mushroom trays – the sort you get free from the greengrocer – lined with a dry tea towel and pop them in the airing cupboard, or somewhere dark, dry and reasonably warm. Check them every few days until dry and rustling, then store in a labelled envelope.)

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Nasturtium shoots

Fill a seed tray or pot with compost and sprinkle with seeds so that there is approximately one seed per cm² (½”). Cover lightly with compost or vermiculite. Bring indoors or grow on heat (this is very important, unless the winter is mild, they won’t grow in unheated greenhouses or polytunnels as they are killed by low temperatures). When the shoots are approx 6 – 8 cm high (2 ¼ – 3 ¼”) cut just above the compost and use in salads, stirfries or the recipes in this blog. Hopefully they will re-grow for another cut.

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At this time of year, I use my dehydrator often. As well as nasturtium flowers and leaves, this week I’ve dehydrated tomatoes, apples, pears, lemon verbena, kale, wild rocket, basil, parsley, bananas (I didn’t grow those!), raspberries, wild strawberries and rose petals. Everything is stored in lidded glass jars in a darkish place.

I have a 10 tier Stockli electric dehydrator. It’s more cost efficient to use all 10 tiers so I put more watery things towards the bottom (tomatoes, apples, pears) and the herbs, leaves and flowers in the higher tiers. The herbs take much less time than the fruit and veg, so I remove those and replace with fresh herbs/flowers/leaves – so I can often get three or even four different loads of herbs/flowers/leaves dehydrated in the time that it takes to dry sliced tomatoes, for example.

All dehydrators are different: if you are using one, check the instructions for your machine. Alternatives to a dehydrator include using an oven on a low setting with the door open (do check your cooker for suitability), the warming part of an Aga/Rayburn (I’ve never had an Aga/Rayburn, but I have been assured by those that do that they have a suitable compartment) or spread over a blue plastic tray (see above) or similar in a warm, dry place.

Spicy nasturtium salt

You will need:

Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Sea salt**
A clean dry glass jar with a lid

** Use any salt you like. I like to use different kinds of sea salt and rock salt, but regular table salt is fine too. This isn’t as pure as sea/rock salt as it usually has an anti-caking agent added to it, but if that is what you have, go for it!

The peppery-ness of the nasturtium flowers and leaves comes through when dehydrated, creating  a condiment that adds a peppery-saltiness to your cooking. It isn’t quite the same as freshly ground black pepper but makes a pretty good homegrown alternative.

This salt is ideal for marinades, sauces, salad dressings and on chips!

Gather your nasturtium leaves and flowers. Turn the leaves over to check  for caterpillar eggs and aphids; shake the flowers to dislodge and bugs.

Preparing to dehydrate nasturtium flowers and leaves

Spread over your trays and dehydrate as many as you wish. You don’t need to use them all in this recipe, they store beautifully in a jar for about a year.

Dehydrated nasturtium flowers and leaves

Now you need to reduce the leaves and /or flowers to a powder. You can do this in a blender or food processor, in a pestle and mortar, or crush with your fingers. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Next, add the salt to your powder. The ratio is 50/50 nasturtium powder to salt – so if you have 10g powder, add 10g salt.

Mix together with a spoon.

Here I used fine sea salt. If the salt you’re using is a bit lumpy, crush it first in a pestle and mortar (or with a wooden spoon in a bowl, or whizz in a blender) to make it finer.

I used just the leaves in these photos – if you used the flowers too then there will be yellow and red flecks in the mix!

Pour into a storage jar, replace the lid and label. I find preserve making funnels really useful for pouring salts into the jar without spilling.

The salt will keep for about a year in a cool, dark place.

I also made some nasturtium flower salt in the same way – I really love the colour! The dried flowers are delicious to snack on; think I’ll pick and dehydrate some more tomorrow for winter nibbling. I expect they’ll be good on pasta and rice dishes, too.

Nasturtium Vinegar

the colour after one day of infusing

This gorgeous rose coloured vinegar is so easy to make. You need:

nasturtium flowers
cider vinegar (or other light vinegar – white wine, white balsamic)
a clean glass jar with a lid
a preserving weight or similar to hold the flowers down
a labelled bottle or jar to store your vinegar

Take your jar into the garden and loosely fill with nasturtium flowers, shaking each one first to dislodge any aphids.  Then fill with vinegar, pop the preserving weight on top* (a piece of greaseproof paper folded to fit will do the trick too) and replace the lid.

Leave in a cool dark place for 2-4 weeks, the longer the flowers infuse, the stronger it will taste. Strain through a muslin lined sieve and store in a clean labelled jar.  Use to make salad dressings, sauces, dips, on your chips…

(* glass or stone preserving weights are too heavy for these flowers)

Nasturtium vodka

A fiery pink cocktail ingredient that is surprisingly quick to make. Mix with lime juice and a good tonic water, make a martini, or use in Bloody Marys. This would make a unique festive gift – I don’t think you can buy nasturtium vodka in the shops – package in a basket with some mixers and recipe suggestions.

Always use a reasonable quality of spirits for infusions – most supermarkets stock a decent generic make. The ultra cheap ones can give horrible hangovers, it really isn’t worth it.

Ingredients:

1 litre (34 floz) nasturtium flowers (loosely packed)
1 litre (34 floz) vodka
A large clean jar for infusing
Clean labelled bottle (s) for storing

The ratio of flowers to vodka is 1:1, so if you don’t want to make a whole litre, you could just use one teacup of flowers to one teacup of vodka.

Shake the flowers to dislodge any insects and place in a large jar. Pour the vodka into the jar and replace the lid. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 days – 1 week, then strain through a sieve lined with muslin and store in labelled jars.

Nasturtium Pesto

100g (4 oz) nasturtium leaves, stems, shoots and flowers
50g (2 oz) toasted nuts (pinenuts, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts) or toasted sunflower/pumpkin seeds*
50 ml (2 floz) olive oil (or sunflower)
1-2 cloves of garlic, as much as you like
salt and pepper to taste – I use nasturtium salt

Put everything in a food processor or blender and whizz. Scrape into a jar using a spatula and store in the fridge for 10 days – 2 weeks.  Pour a little oil on the top to help keep the pesto fresh.

Delicious with pasta, as a dip, stirred through rice or couscous, spread over roasted veg. Yum. For winter use, freeze in ice cube trays. When frozen, pop out and store in a labelled freezer proof box or bag.

* you can add raw nuts/seeds if you prefer, toasting brings out a richer flavour 

There are many (over 180) plant based recipes in my new book The Creative Kitchen, which is being printed now! It is available from my publisher, all of the usual online places and if you would like a signed copy please buy from me here. I am very happy to write a dedication.

We think this book would make a lovely gift, too 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 comments

  1. Thank you Stephanie for a lovely blog . My nasturtiums have gone mad all of a sudden , climbing all over the rose tree and trailing down the path . I am going to make the vinegar tomorrow as I have cider vinegar left from my chutney . Xx

  2. Wow, some lovely recipes here, thanks Stephanie, my nasturtiums have also gone a bit crazy and have started taking over a no dig bed! So I’ll be having a go at a few of these.

  3. Thank you for sharing your lovely ideas, I’m going to try the pesto and salt recipes, as a friend has a dehydrator she kindly shares. Very excited about your book, so pleased you’ve written it! I keep dropping hints to Solstice Elf (hubs) so fingers crossed! 😊

    1. That you, I hope the Solstice Elf takes the hint 🙂

      Enjoy the recipes, such a good idea to share a dehydrator with a friend.

  4. Hi Stephanie, I think that your book may well be the perfect gift for someone I know. You say it is plant based, can I check are the recipes all vegan?

    1. Yes, all of the recipes in The Creative Kitchen are vegan so they are suitable for everyone (almost, as of course some people have allergies to things)!

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