In a right pickle


Since my garden is the size of a children’s bucket I have become used to dividing every recipe that calls for a home-grown crop by at least five – then phoning the local takeaway an hour later because we’re still hungry. I suspect a lot of grow-your-own types have to do this, and if they don’t then frankly I suspect they’re supplementing their ingredients with Mr Ocado or live on a remote Shetland Island.


But bravado clouded my judgement today. I’m not sure why I suddenly decided I had to pickle my nasturtium seed pods Right Now. Partly it’s because I love the idea of getting more than one use out of every crop I grow – steamed broad bean tips, pea shoots, coriander seeds, potato missiles to lob at the children…  But mainly it’s because I had actual work to do, work that would pay me, hence needing a self-indulgent distraction activity. Once there, the prospect of pickles was so delightfully New Victorian, so domestically aspirational and so flour-siftingly, home-made buntingly wholesome that I was powerless to resist. Especially when horticultural pals on Twitter emailed me a recipe – bad Twitter pals.

And so, undeterred with Twitter comments such as ‘I tried them and they were like wishy-washy capers’, and remembering to avoid the big ones since ‘they taste like cardboard’, I headed out to the garden in the darkening drizzle in my Parka with a Tupperware in my hand and hope in my heart. Only to discover that among this sea of nasturtiums that are clothing every bed, clambering through the kale and strangling the rosemary was 26 seed pods. This may make a tartare sauce for two.

I know, it’s possibly the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard. And I only have to wait a month to try them.

With thanks to Pam Corbin for writing the recipe in her by all accounts fabulous book River Cottage Handbook no2: Preserves… and to Alex and Simon for emailing it to me so I didn’t have to leave the house to go to the shop.

Nasturtium Capers

makes 2x115g jars

15g salt
100g nasturtium seed pods
A few peppercorns (optional)
Herbs, such as dill or tarragon sprigs, or bay leaves (optional)
200ml white wine vinegar

Make a light brine by dissolving the salt in 300ml of water.  Put the nasturtium seed pods into a bowl and cover with the cold brine.  Leave for 24hrs.

Drain the seed pods and dry well.  Pack them into small, sterilised jars with, if you like, a few peppercorns and herbs of your choice.  Leave room for 1cm of vinegar at the top.  Cover the pods with vinegar and seal the jars with vinegar proof lids.  Store in a cool, dark place and leave for a few weeks before eating. Use within a year.

To make nasturtium tartare sauce, simply mix 100g mayonnaise with 2-3 finely chopped spring onions or 30g finely chopped white part of a leek, 1 tbsp coarsely chopped nasturtium capers, 1 heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.