Nasturtium plants are easy to grow, invasive even, and are found in many a back yard without anybody recalling having planted them. The rounded leaves and bright-hued blooms are strikingly pretty, and can both be used in the kitchen, possessing a snappy peppery bite similar to radish. When using whole flowers, you may either pluck the petals or use whole, but do remove the centre pistils as they are bitter. With such saturated colour, the flowers are a natural for salads, garnishes and on hors d’ouevres, and here are some ideas to expand the culinary repertoire of the nasturtium: Make nasturtium butter by blending salted butter, nasturtium petals and little lemon juice, and use on steamed potatoes, corncobs and freshly baked bread. Similarly, make nasturtium mayo or aioli. Both the flowers and leaves make a lovely addition to a summery potato salad. Make a pretty salad by marinating whole flowers, finely shredded leaves and a little pickled ginger in a ponzu dressing for 5 minutes, and use to top seared tuna. Add petals and shredded leaves to rolled sushi. Make nasturtium vinegar by steeping a mix of leaves and petals in white wine vinegar for 2 weeks or more, then strain. The resulting vinegar will have a sharp bite and a vegetal flavour.
(Text as published in Taste magazine January 2011)