I planted one non-vegetable this year, and that was nasturtiums. They have a very pretty flower! They mostly died horribly in my garden.
You can already see in the background that a leaf is getting chewed up. Anyway, the reason that I wanted to grow nasturtiums was to make these “California capers,” or pickled nasturtium seedpods.
Backstory: a few years ago, my parents and I spent Christmas in Italy. Our traditional Christmas breakfast is bagels with lox, cream cheese, onions, and capers. We thought we had bought regular capers, but they were way peppery-er and totally awesome. We tried to find them back in the states, and to that end we bought actual pickled peppercorns. It was not those. So I was looking at various things on the web and ran across these.
I’m not sure why they’re called “California,” because surely nasturtiums can grow anywhere, but I guess it’s because the climate of California means they can grow for a really long time (provided they don’t get eaten to death or a drought attacks or whatever). So my nasturtiums only yielded about three pods before they kicked the bucket, but my pal Lydia had a massive plot of them in her front yard, and she very kindly let me rummage through hers to pick enough for pickling.
They’re a bit of an acquired taste, but I do have to say, they’re good on our bagel combination. Still not the same as the ones we found in Florence, though.
2/3 cup nasturtium seedpods (harvest them while green and still on the vine, otherwise they’re too dried out for this to work)
1/4 cup salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
Rinse the seedpods to remove any bits of dirt that may still be clinging. Combine the salt and water in a container that has a lid (or use plastic wrap). Add the seedpods, stir once or twice, then cover and let brine for 3-4 days. Shake the container or stir the mixture a couple times a day. (They will not smell good. That is normal.)
Strain the seeds and rinse them in a colander. Place the bay leaf in the bottom of a jar and pour the seeds in on top.
Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil and stir to dissolve. Pour the vinegar mixture carefully into the jar. Close the jar, let cool to room temperature, and then move to the refrigerator. Let them sit for at least a week before using. They’ll keep a long time in the fridge.