Nasturtiums in the garden – nasturtiums to the kitchen
My mum always tells the story of how as children they ate nasturtium leaves on bread. As a child that was a rather foreign concept to me. I could barely understand eating salad leaves, let alone leaves from flowers that grow in the back garden. Those same flowers that sometimes feature in little pots littered throughout the house.
Recently I watched one of Jan Braai’s episodes, featuring Prins Albert (my current favourite place in the Karoo). There Jeremy Freemantle from African Relish Cooking School made a pesto from the leaves – inspiration.
It got me thinking about the stories my parents tell about foods or ingredients and how it was used in different ways during the times of shortage. My grandparents had to make do with what they had or could get hold of when there were shortages. The result is that they looked around them at what was on offer on the farm or in their vegetable patches. They couldn’t and didn’t just depend on the shops. There were rations, very few if any vegetables shops and to substitute, even in the city, they had to plant their own vegetable gardens and raise their own poultry. But the ladies of the homes were always able to feed their families. In the process these ladies all created variety, simply by using what they were given in creative ways when cooking or even trading with their neighbours. Lack of butter – they got soft pig fat to spread on bread. Otherwise use the brown rough sugar bought on ration, wet it a bit and spread on bread (farm boys). When they bought their milk, the cream that topped it was skimmed and kept aside till enough cream was collected. This was then whisked or shaken in a can fruit bottle (my one gran’s solution), to make their own butter.
Store bought bread didn’t exist. Flour was also on ration and it was really rough, unsifted and still dirty flour. This was then sifted to fine (in secret, as you weren’t allowed to sift it!) and used to bake the bread or the odd cake even. Vetkoeke (fried buns) were made from the wholemeal flour, roughly sifted to clean and roosterkoeke (individual buns cooked on griddle) were done straight on the Aga stove top.
Nose-to-tail eating was also not just a trend, but a necessity and nothing was wasted when an animal was slaughtered.
In current times some people are trying to go back to that simplified way of living. So much that you’ll find those upping and leaving the cities to try their hands at living more of a sustainable life. I salute all of you who take that step. It is a harder life, but I can only think very fulfilling.
In my case, I went foraging for the nasturtiums. (Does it still count as foraging if it’s only 10 steps from my backdoor and on my own property?
VERY IMPORTANT: make sure that when you use nasturtium leaves and flowers that they are free of pesticides! So if it’s the neighbour’s, do make sure that he’s not the pesticide spraying type.
Remember when making sauces or condiments like these – keep on tasting. That’s the only way you can get the balance of flavours right.
Your taste buds are one of your most important quality controllers or ‘recipe checkers’.
Taste of the nasturtium leaves: slightly peppery and gives you a bit of a different, almost natural ‘green’ taste to these condiments.
Pesto – (you can replace the nasturtiums with basil)
Use this pesto to toss through pasta, dolloping on minestrone soup, stuffing some skinless chicken breast or giving the chicken breasts a good rub with it before serving or even use it as a nice condiment on a gourmet sarmie.
50g nasturtiums (around 23/24 medium leaves)
1 garlic clove, chopped
60ml (4 Tbsp) of Parmesan
30ml (2 Tbsp) lemon juice
+45ml (3 Tbsp) of olive oil
Blend the nasturtiums, garlic, cashew nuts, Parmesan and lemon juice together in a blender or food processor. Now add the olive oil slowly, while blending it further to a smooth paste. Note that you might not use all the oil or you might need more. Then do the taste test and season with salt flakes if needed.
Gremolata – (you can replace the nasturtiums with parsley)
This refreshing condiment can give a nice refreshing lift to a dish, adding it just before serving. When it hits the heat of the dish, you’ll get stunning peppery and zesty smells wafting up. So go ahead and top off your grilled steak or add to your roast chicken just out of the oven, as you serve up.
The quantities will differ dependent on how much you want to make
10/15 Medium – large Nasturtium leaves (halve them and then chiffonade them – cut thin long strips
1 Garlic clove (crushed)
1 Lemon’s zest (finely chopped)
30ml (2 Tbsp) Olive oil
15ml Lemon juice
Salt to taste
Mix all ingredients together
Remember to keep on tasting to get your balance between the lemon and olive oil right.
Simple salad – beautified
The simplest of the uses, just adding the edible flowers – either whole or the petals – to a salad. It gives a very simple salad a special touch.
Go ahead, look at your everyday ingredients from a different angle – you’ll see the potential. With simple little touches and changes, you’ll be surprised how you can make the seemingly common ingredient shine in a different way. Isn’t that also how we should look at life, from a different angle, I’m sure it will make you see the potential in everything?