Nasty Capers: The G-Rated Kind

We decided to grow our first patio garden this summer. It started with flowers–impatiens, lobelia, alyssum, and empresses of India. These were only for show, except then I realized, not having read the label very carefully at the nursery, that the empress of India is a nasturtium.

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We reused recyclable bags and other containers we had lying around for our garden. The planters on the railing were left behind by the previous tenants.

What’s the big deal about nasturtiums, you ask? Nasties (as I prefer to call them) are edible, that’s what. Leaves, flowers, and all. Eventually our garden grew to include other edible things, but since the nasties were planted so early, they were the first to be harvested.

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The nasties, when they were still babies.

They grew quickly, like mint. I didn’t take photos of the bounty, so I don’t have them to show, but we experimented with using the leaves in stews to add a dash of flavor or even as a replacement for spinach. The leaves were peppery and interesting in flavor… but ultimately, we never really got around to doing much with the plant, even though it’s said to be a great addition in salads. Thankfully, it didn’t care what we thought: it continued to grow beautifully, developing buds that bloomed into the most beautiful flowers (also edible!).

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Don’t worry, the petals aren’t stained: those are just raindrops clinging to the flower like it’s no big deal.

To show how on top of things we were, we also never used the flowers. Not even to pretty up desserts. Not even to pretty up a vase! The flowers started drying out, the leaves started browning, and then one day, when he was out watering the garden, CS came into the kitchen exclaiming: “The nasties are bearing fruit!”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Those are seeds. I remember reading about that.”

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The seeds grow in pods of three (the third one is teeny tiny and hiding). This one’s hissing at us.

I had a vague memory of reading about how the seed pods can be used to make poor man’s capers—nasty capers, that is. So, this time, we were on top of things and collected as many of the seeds as we could, leaving behind the ones that were still tiny for a later harvest.

Now I am following directions on how to pickle nasturtium pods to make our own homemade capers. The pods we picked may be a little too mature—the reddish-brown coloring indicates they were starting to dry out—but I have my fingers crossed and am hoping for the best. Sure, we struck out with the leaves, didn’t even show up to bat with the flowers, but we might still bring it home (or maybe just to 3rd plate) with the pods.

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