It's not without benefits though. Normally frost has its growth tamed but this year, without so much as a whispery breath of chilly morning air, it comes alive bearing great gifts. Deeply-coloured orange and yellow flowers lie among the pads of green. The scent attracts a pair of snowy white butterflies that flit through every morning for an early lunch. The Complete Book of Flowers by Denise Diamond provides some educational insight on this common edible garden species, related to watercress and with a similar peppery bite.
"Nasturtium flowers were first found in South America in the sixteenth century. Their popularity reached a peak during Victorian Times when flowers and their bright green round leaves were grown in gardens and used for food and flower arrangements. In frost-free areas nasturtiums may be raised as perennials. They are grown easily as seasonal annuals in other areas and prefer average soil with little fertilizer and adequate water. They will trail along the ground, spill over the side of a container, or climb up a fence. The single or double flowers bloom profusely in shades of orange, red, or yellow. They grow best out of direct, hot sun in warmer climates or with full sun in cooler, coastal gardens. Too much shade or excess nitrogen in the soil will produce lush foliage with few flowers.
In herbal tradition nasturtiums have been known for their antiseptic qualities, their ability to help fight infection, as an expectorant, and as a source of vitamin C."
This recipe is an adaptation from one I found in an excellent book called A Year in a Bottle by Sally Wise - a collection of recipes for over 100 preserves, with chapters including jams, jellies, relishes, pickles, dehydrated foods, frozen fruits, fruit pastes, fruit cheeses and so forth. Aphids seem to love nasturtium flowers, especially the bright yellow colours. A quick spray with the hose before picking should do the trick and if you see any still clinging on for dear life, they can be removed with a quick flick of a fine-haired paint brush. When separating the petals from the stamen and sepal, I found it easiest to simply cut away the petals with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors onto a blanket of paper towel, minimising damage and bruising.
Nasturtium Petal Syrup
55 g nasturtium petals (about 7 cups)
875 g water
790 g castor sugar
85 g lemon juice
Combine water, sugar and lemon juice in a medium-sized pot.
Bring it to the boil then reduce to simmer.
Add nasturtium petals and simmer gently for 1 hour.
Strain through a fine sieve and into sterilised bottles.
Store in a cool, dark place and refrigerate after opening.
Now.. If only I knew what to do with it.. Any ideas people? Hmm.. a nasturtium-flavoured custard perhaps?
(Submitted for this months Sugar High Friday with Mmm, Tasty! Don't forget to join in!)