Sunday, 19 October 2008

Pickled Nasturtium Seeds (Poor Mans Capers)

Genuine Capers* (Capparis spinosa) are the pickled or salted bud of a large spiny shrub native to the Mediterranean that grows in hot, well drained dry soil. So no chance of growing it in Yorkshire.

But fear not, for we have an abundance of the next best thing, Nasturtiums! Yes, beloved flower of my old Nan, and unstoppable force at the end of the garden (where I foolishly chucked a 19p packet of Netto seeds several years ago, and have spent every summer ever since battling them for garden supremacy**) Hurrah for nasturtiums! They grow anywhere (they're originally from South America, where all the most delicious things are from), hide a multitude of sins (being essentially a big orange distraction), grow like Billy-O so slugs have no chance of doing their usual destruction, and the flowers & leaves are tasty in salads.

They are also great companion plants for curcubits (courgettes & summer squash) & brassicas (Broccoli & Cauliflower), and will keep growing & producing flowers until the first frost.

But what I'm going on about is the seeds.
Nasturtiums produce lots of seeds, about 3 seeds to every flower (and when planted in full sun they flower a lot!), which should be picked on a dry day when still firm and green (you'll have to rummage around in the leaves to find them).
There are a couple of different methods to pickling the seeds. last year I soaked them in salt water for 3 days (changing the water each day) before packing them into sterilised jars & topping with boiled vinegar. They were nice, but had lost their spicy tang (and whats the point of nasturtiums without their pepperyness?), so this time it's Mrs Beeton's recipe.

Wipe the Nasturtium seeds with a clean cloth (I did give them a quick rinse first) & pack into sterilised glass jars (there are various ways of sterilising, but I tend to swipe some home brewing cleanser & deodoriser from the other half's beer making kit. Works a treat.).
To each pint of vinegar used (I used distilled) add 1/2 oz (about 14g) salt & 6 peppercorns, sling in a pan & bring to the boil. Strain & pour over the capers. Seal & store in a cool dry place, and resist the urge to open for, ooh, 3 months. Though they can be kept longer, up to a year or more if things are good & sterile (I've got some chutney I made in 2006 that's still good***)

*not to be confused with the 3 act caper, which involves heists, plot twists, thrilling rooftop chases and the Woman Who Done Him Wrong
**Though we all know that its the spectacularly fat magpie who lives in the pear tree that is the master of us all
***Made on 6th June 2006, so it was named Apicklypse. Chortle indeed.

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