Edible Beauty: Nasturtium

July 06 2014

Alas, the yearly May-June scramble for foraged ramps has finally tapered off. Luckily, there’s not much of a wait for the next hot-ticket ingredient, as the July heat brings with it the blossoms of another beloved culinary pleasure: nasturtium. A member of the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family, edible nasturtium is one of a genus of seven varieties of summer flowers. Its light and peppery flavor and explosive orange hues are favored by chefs, diners, and horticulturalists alike.

IMG_9453

Valued as much for its ornamental qualities as its taste, nasturtium is decoratively planted throughout Europe, topping trellises, cascading wildly down garden walls, and buffering the main alley of Monet’s garden at Giverny. As such, it’s just as common to see the vibrant red-orange flower in an impressionist oil painting as it is to see it on a plate.   

Emanuel_Phillips_Fox_-_Nasturtiums,_1912

For those who fancy a little homegrown flair in their summertime dishes, nasturtium is a knock-around perennial that can withstand some pretty nasty treatment. Planting is simple. All you need is a well-drained site with afternoon shade in areas with hot summers. And be sure you let no nasturtium go to waste, every part of the flower is edible. From its colorful petals, to its bitter, peppery leaves, to its seed pods which can pickled or used like capers. There’s no dearth of uses from this particularly eye-popping edible.

We recently stopped by Heritage in Richmond, VA to see how head chef Joe Sparatta works the fiery flower into his ever-changing menu. Here’s his quick and easy recipe for nasturtium butter.

Nasturtium Butter

50 Nasturtium Leaves
2 Cloves Garlic, inced
2 Medium shallots, peeled, minced
1 Pound soft butter
Lemon zest
1 Tsp salt

1. Blend all ingredients in food processor or blender until very well combined

2. Shape butter into log shape on plastic wrap

3. Roll butter tightly in plastic wrap, try to avoid air bubbles if possible

4. Twist ends of plastic tight and tape shut

5. Refrigerate or freeze

IMG_9462IMG_9478