Sunday, April 7, 2013

Nasturtium seed 'capers' finally make it to our table

I think I first heard about pickling nasturtium seeds for use instead of capers about 10 years ago. For some reason though, I've never made pickled nasturtium seed capers myself, despite the fact that I've pretty much always had nasturtiums growing in my gardens (for beauty, salad goodness and ground-covering), and have pulled great groves of them out of the bush on several occasions.
Nasturtiums: a rampant bushland pest, but a beautiful, versatile, abundant companion in the veggie garden, too

That is, I'd never made them until I read Wild Fermentation. That really spurred me on. And crikeys am I glad it did. Capers are one of those things that usually come from a long way away. The Mediterranean, to be precise. They're the immature flower buds of the caper bush, and when you buy them in Australia, they're usually pickled. They're pretty tasty, versatile little beggars, so it was high time I started to experiment with a more local version. So local, in fact, that I got a whole big jar of them from not more than 2 metres from our front door.
And they're super-easy to make:
First up, pick yourself a big bowl of nasturtium seed buds. I picked mine at night after the kids had gone to bed, by torchlight. It was rather nice to be patrolling the garden in the dark at that time of night, I can tell you. When I brought them inside, they looked like this.
Nasturtium seed pods just picked, ready for pickling

I then gave them a quick wash and, following the instructions in Wild Fermentation, put them in a jar with some whole garlic cloves, then covered them in some salt brine. Just salt and water. I then put a smaller jar full of water in the top of the big 'caper' jar, so that the 'capers' were pushed down and immersed. If they're exposed to the air, they'll grow mould - probably not what you're after.
I then just sat them on top of the cupboard for a week to ferment a bit in the brine. We tasted them after a week, and decided they weren't quite ready, so set them for another week, til they were just right.
We then just put the lid on the jar and put them all into the fridge, till we needed a bit of caper-y goodness. That moment came a few nights ago when we had  some people over and Pearly decided to pioneer a recipe found in her current fave cook book - Moro
Roasted red pepper salad with nasturtium pod 'capers' and home-made preserved lemons, local olives, hummus and home-made, still warm flatbread.. mmmmmm....

It was bloody delicious, and a perfect excuse to use up some of our favourite preserves. If you've never had preserved lemons, give them a burl. They're super-easy to make (if you know someone with a lemon tree I'm sure they'd be happy to give you a bag-full when they're on) and make all kinds of things taste, quite frankly, out of this world.

nasturtium seed pods, flowers and leaves also come in handy when constructing fairy gardens in the vietnamese mint (photo and fairy garden by Olive)

Thanks nasturtiums: Not only do you brighten our lives with your almost-year-round sunny sunny faces, and help us to cover our practical-and-recycled-but-really-pretty-ugly tyre retaining wall, but you do a pretty awesome job of standing in for a delicious morsel that would normally be shipped to us from the other side of the world. Yeah!
Secret to a happy life: always have at least one jar of nasturtiums on the dinner table


  1. I've never thought to peserve them. This Wild Fermentation book looks amazing too. I've just added it to my wishlist.

    1. Hi Zara, Wild Fermentation and The Art Of Fermentation are so very very good. We most highly recommend. Thanks x

  2. They were amaze-balls. I can't believe how much like capers they tasted. I am going to try this out myself :D

    1. Yeah they were just so good. I couldn't quite believe how good. Love xx