Nasturtium leaf salad



Astonishingly, it seems that the teeniest little bit of summer has finally arrived in the UK!  I mean, we have had two weekends in a row of reasonable weather (well, not raining, that is…) and I have finally had a chance to spend some time in my sadly neglected garden.  I must say that despite the neglect, it’s looking pretty OK.  The last of my profusion of poppies are still hanging on; the geraniums are blooming for all they’re worth and the alyssum is making clouds of sweet-smelling flowers.  But most importantly, my favourite harbinger of summer has arrived:  the nasturtiums.

I have loved nasturtiums ever since my mom introduced me to them as a child (although I knew them by their Afrikaans name of kappertjies then).  They were easy to grow, fairly hard to kill and produced loads of flowers over a long period.  Plus there was the added bonus that their leaves looked almost exactly like the lily pads I had seen in my illustrated Beatrix Potter books and with a drop of dew in their centre, I could almost imagine them featuring in her wonderful tales.  I remember always being on the lookout for interesting colours: the ones with petals that shaded from red in the centre to yellow at the edges were my favourites and tended to grow lke weeds in Plett, on the slopes below the old Lookout hotel.  I would always make sure to get some seeds to take home and try and grow them in our garden, to my mom’s amusement.  When I arrived in the UK and saw nasturtium seeds for sale at the nursery, I immediately snapped them up and planted some – just having the plants in the garden made it feel a little more like home.  And this year, to my surprise, I discovered two thriving nasturtium plants that had sown themselves in the little corner by the garden gate, where nothing grows except weeds. So you could say that I now have wild nasturtiums growing in my garden…

I certainly had never thought of eating them until I started reading more widely about food and discoverd that a) capers are in fact NOT pickled nasturtium seeds, as we had always been told as children!) and b) both the flowers and leaves are edible, with a pleasant peppery tang.  They were brought to Europe in the 16th century from the jungles of Central America and in fact, their peppery tang is where nasturtiums for their name from:  an amalgamation of the Latin word for nose (nasus) and twister (tortus).  I have nibbled on them a few times since discovering their culinary possibilties and since they taste very much like rocket to me, I though they would be ideal in a salad.  And although I know the flowers are edible too, it just seems too much of a pity to pick them when I so love seeing their cheerful orange faces when I look out of the window.

So you’ll have to make do with wild nasturtium leaf salad!

NASTURTIUM LEAF SALAD (serves 2)Nasturtium_leaf


Cos lettuce, washed and torn
Cherry tomatoes, halved
2 sticks celery, sliced
5cm of a cucumber, thinly sliced
spring onions, chopped
a handful of fresh nasturtium leaves
1 Tbsp capers (optional)


Toss the salad ingredients together and dress with a lemony vinagrette dressing.  Delicious with pizza.

This post is my atrociously late submission for Bron‘s great Wildfood event.  This month’s theme was Wild Weeds – check out her fantastic roundup!

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  1. says

    My mum grows these flowers in the garden, I’ve read that they’re edible but somehow never tried them myself. Next weekend, I promise – the round leaves look so cute in your salad!

  2. says

    I love nasturtiums too. I had the experience in reverse order to you. Growing them as a child in my English garden from seeds, then being delighted to find them growing in profusion wild in South Africa.
    We used to bite off the pointed end at the back of the flower and suck out the nectar as children. Now I nibble the leaves too. They are supposed to contain a natural anti bacterial/ antibiotic and can ward off sore throats if you eat a few leaves. I’m still waiting for mine to flower so I can pick posies for the kitchen table.

  3. says

    I love adding nasturtium leaves and the blossoms into salads. Topped with a fruity vinaigrette, the peppery taste of the leaves is fantastic.

  4. says

    I’ve had nasturtiums in a fragrant flower salad mix that I by at the local farmer’s market. It makes such an elegant presentation, doesn’t it? Your photos are just lovely, especially the second one with the water droplet. Quite inspirational!

  5. says

    Oh yes – just grab a handful of your mom’s! The smaller leaves are usualyl nicer and can go into the salad in their entire, round form which is prettiest. If you like rocket, you are sure to like these :)
    How funny that we had the reverse experience! One of the joys of moving far away from home I guess… I also remember kids biting off the pointy end to suck the nectar, but I’ve always preferred them for their aesthetic qualities. Interesting about the antibacterial/antibiotic properties – I’ll have to try that nest time I feel a scratchy throat coming on.
    Mmmmm – maybe a little raspberry vinaigrette? Now you’ve got me thinking!
    Thanks *blush*! That’s high praise from somebody who takes such lovely photos herself! And I agree – flowers do add something so special to a meal’s presentation.

  6. pam slade says

    I sit in a comfy chair beside a raised (alpine) bed with a clump of nasturtiums, and I munch away any time of day (having first checked for caterpillars).
    I wonder why they don;t attract blackfly, as they did when I was a child?

  7. Spittoon Extra says

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  8. says

    You are very lucky, my nasturtium plants were all invaded by some little black bugs, I had to use some poison to get rid of them so they were not edible any longer. I removed them from the pots but to my surprise they grew back very quickly… unfortunately this time slugs ate all the leaves.

  9. says

    I’m mentioning your piece (long ago) about nasturtium flowers and leaves. I thought you might like to see it. It’s going on my blog The Armchair kitchen (see website above) next Friday 13th September. Do have a look and let me know if you like it.