I love all things pickled or salty - and capers are an absolute favorite. I would use them all the time if they weren't quite so pricey. When I heard that you could make a nearly identical substitute from nasturtiums, of all things, I knew I had to try it.
I wasn't familiar with nasturtiums before I moved to California, but here, they grow like weeds. They're great groundcover and produce showy orange or red blossoms that nestle perfectly on top of a salad. They add a nice spicy flavor kick, too.
But what part of the nasturtium could you pickle? I hadn't observed them closely enough to notice that once those beautiful orange petals dry up, they leave a light green seedpod, roughly the size of a normal caper (real capers are produced from flower buds of Capparis spinosa, not seedpods). Nasturtiums only start producing these seeds in the late summer, so now is the perfect time to pickle.
Be careful, though - only pick the light green ones. (See recipe below)
The seeds dry over time to form a light brown seed that falls off the plant, and you want them as fresh and green as possible for the pickling. You don't need a large quantity - less than a cupful.
First you soak them in brine for three days, and then pickle them with vinegar and spices. Incredibly easy, and - voila! Capers. I love being able to produce what feels like a delicacy from such a common resource that was under my nose all the time.
Wow, those windows need washing! Here's the recipe:
1/2 - 1 c. green, new nasturtium seedpods
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup water
Mix salt & water, boil, and pour over the seeds. Cover and soak at room temp for three days.
3/4 c. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 laurel leaves
Fresh sprigs of thyme or marjoram, whatever you have in the garden
Drain the capers and return to jar. Boil the vinegar, sugar and herbs, and then pour the mixture over the capers. Cool. Cover and refrigerate at least three days before using. The capers will keep at least six months in the refrigerator.
*Adapted from The Spendid Table