Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Grow To Eat: Nasturtiums

There are fun aspects to eating flowers. Especially if you do it in front of kids who find it fascinating. Or 'those ladies' who Cara and I were talking about in the comments the other day, they are fun to tease. My favourite flowers to eat are nasturtiums. They have a lovely peppery taste. The leaves go great in salads. I've picked nasturtium leaves to sit on Michelin star plates and ate them from my plain ones. They also make a lovely salsa. The pods can be pickled although I've never done it.
Nasturtiums, on a cold Mofo morning
They are incredibly easy to grow and both the leaves and the flowers look great. They come in a multitude of colours, including vivid red. They are a fabulous companion plant. What's not for the edible gardener to like? My growing advice is this: acquire seeds, sow when frost danger has passed... that's it. I find mine grow steadily over the summer with a spurt in September. they die off with frost. Last year at Occombe we pulled the remaining Nasturtiums out of cold November ground with shards of ice hiding in the foliage and I still came home with flowers.
And their bright red jelly
When I get a few flowers I love to make this jelly. I can't remember where I scrawled the original recipe from but I spent last summer making it, tinkering with it and making it more British. It's a super easy jelly to make, you can do it in just over an hour start to finish and you don't need a jelly bag. The colour depends on the colour of your nasturtiums, I like to grow vibrant reds.

This make a small batch, about 2 3.5oz (just under 100g) jars full, multiply according to your flower supply.

Nasturtium Jelly

1/2 cup Nasturtium flowers
1 cup water
1 tablespoon rice vinager
1 3/4 cups of jam sugar (jam sugar has added pectin)

Have ready and sterilized 3-4 (always have a couple extra!) 3.5oz jam jars or similar. My favourite method is to wash them thoroughly and dry in the oven at 100C.

Heat a large, empty saucepan for 30 seconds while you tear or roughly chop the nasturtiums

Turn off the heat and throw in the petals. After 30 seconds or so add the water.

Bring the water in the pan to the boil, when it is boiling switch of the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes. The flowers will turn brown and the liquid will colour.

Strain the liquid through a sieve.

Heat the liquid in a large pan and slowly add the sugar. Slowly heat the jam until it reaches setting point. I prefer to use a jam thermometer to test but do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

Poor the jelly into the jars and seal.

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