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Nasturtium

One of the attractions of urban farming to me is the privilege of growing vegetables or edible plants that are not usually found at your local greengrocer or supermarket.  We, as urban farmers, have access to produce what otherwise may be considered expensive, rare or a delicacy.

Rob and I have decided to forego on a landscaped garden in exchange for an edible garden and grow what could be called a wild garden. We choose plants for their medicinal or nutritional value and not for their aesthetic looks. We are daily discovering more about the beneficial qualities of plants that are traditionally found in gardens in South Africa. We try to incorporate these in our developing backyard farm.

Common garden plants are often overlooked for their inherent value. Nasturtium is such a plant.  Besides that they are wonderful companions to green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and many other vegetables, their leaves, flowers as well as seeds are edible. I love their peppery taste. I make use of the leaves to transform an ordinary sandwich into something special, while the flowers and leaves find their way into my salad bowl where I combine them with baby spinach and mixed lettuce.

We currently (February 2014) have ample supply of cucumbers and we look for inventive ways to make use of them. Earlier this week I made a salad using diced cucumber, nasturtium seeds and ground ginger which I marinated in a mix of olive oil and white vinegar and then served on nasturtium leaves. I marinated the salad in a covered glass bowl for about an hour before I served it. The powerful peppery taste of the seeds compliment the cucumber and ginger to make a well flavoured salad.

We had friends for lunch this afternoon and I prepared green beans in a creamy mushroom sauce as a side dish. I replaced the garlic and onion that I would normally use with minced nasturtium leaves. I lightly fried the leaves in butter before adding the chopped green beans. I fried these together and then added the mushrooms and a teaspoonful of fresh mint. I finished the dish off with a dash of cream which I thickened with corn starch. Everybody at the table commented on the exceptional flavour of the dish. I didn’t reveal my secret ingredient …until now!

Another way I like to make use of these versatile plants is in the form of dainty filled leaves or blossoms as appetizers. For the filling I mix softened cream cheese with heavy cream (1 tablespoon of cream per 100g of cheese) and fresh, chopped chives. After lightly rinsing the blossoms in salt water, I fill them with the cheese. I gently close the petals around the filling and cool them for at least an hour before serving. The amount of the ingredients needed, can be calculated according to the number of appetizers. A teaspoonful of filling is sufficient per blossom. Not only are they delicious but also beautiful to look at.

A variation of this recipe is salmon and cucumber stuffed nasturtium leaves. Mix salmon cream cheese with finely grated cucumber and salt to taste. Spoon a teaspoonful of the mixture into the centre of each leave. Roll the leave into a tight roll and tie with the stem of a blossom. Cool for about an hour before serving.

These are all delicious, cost effective ways to present simple food in a delightful way.

Blessing: May the fruit of your life be a delight to others, wandering through your garden.

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