Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More surprises from the humble Nasturtium

Originally published in Oakland Local on April 26, 2011.

It's one of the most ubiquitous and easily grown plants in Bay Area gardens. I often use their orange flowers as zesty and beautiful garnishes in salads and last year, I made a great batch of nasturtium capers from their seed pods.

I didn't think the Nasturtium (genus Tropaeolum) had any more tricks up its sleeve. But I was overlooking another key feature: their leaves. With their slightly peppery taste, it turns out they make a great pesto!

I was so excited to run across this recipe because my basil plants are tiny, so I wasn't anticipating any pesto in my immediate future. This is a great way to kick start (and extend) the pesto season. I added some fried tofu and parmesan, tossed it all with whole wheat pasta and it was delicious.

Nasturtium Leaf Pesto
Adapted from
"Hitchhiking to Heaven"
4 cups Nasturtium leaves, plus flowers if you've got them
1 cup cashews (you can use walnuts or pine nuts - I happened to have cashews in the pantry)
4 large cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
Black pepper
Dashes of hot sauce

Combine everything but the salt, pepper and hot sauce in a Cuisinart. Season to taste. Super easy, 20 minutes tops. I added the hot sauce because my leaves weren't quite peppery enough for me, and I think the vinegar in it was a nice addition. You can freeze the extras in ice cube trays, and the pesto will last forever, already divided into manageable chunks. 

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