A lover of edible flowers, a few months ago we bought a little nasturtium plant – unassuming in its little plastic container. We had future plans to find a space in our backyard to grow a little kitchen garden, but thought we would put plant the nasturtium in a large pot with some rosemary and see if we could at least have something on hand to eat that we could grow.
Not knowing much about how to grow nasturtiums, I didn’t know how easy or hard it would be to grow. Cut to 3 months later and the nasturtium plant has grown over the rosemary, shot down the sides of the large pot, and started making its way along the floor. Turns out nasturtiums are really easy to grow!
Happy that I had decided to plant it in a pot and not directly in the garden, yesterday I ruthlessly hacked away at it. I gathered long tendrils filled with leaves and flowers in the hopes that the little rosemary bush could now see the light of day.
The leaves and flowers are edible so I decided that with the abundance of nasturtium leaves I better make pesto – always a great way to use up a glut of greens.
If you aren’t familiar with the nasturtium plant, a little history. The word nasturtium means “nose twist” in latin and was named as such due the leaves and flowers having a sharp peppery flavour. Native to South and Central America, it grows well with little effort. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and the peppery flavour lends itself more to use savoury dishes. They are delicious in a salad, served with pasta or included in stir fries.
The flowers can sometimes be so strong that you only need to use the petals and apparently the time of day at which you pick it can affect the flavour (they say morning is better). I’m just a fan of the gorgeous lily pad shaped leaves…
Making a pesto from the leaves is wonderfully easy. The bigger the leaves the more peppery the flavour, so I like to select a mixture of baby leaves and large leaves to balance the flavour. To help break down the slightly fibrous larger leaves, it helps to blanch them for 10 seconds in boiling water and then cool them immediately in an ice bath.
I figured the delicious toasted hazelnut would complement the bite of the nasturtium and I wasn’t wrong. It’s a great combination along with pecorino cheese and garlic.
The resulting pesto is vibrant with a peppery deliciousness that can be used in the exact same way that you would use basil pesto.
Nasturtium and Hazelnut Pesto
- 3 cups nasturtium leaves
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 50g skinless hazelnuts, toasted
- 50g pecorino cheese, grated
- 80ml extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and prepare an ice bath by placing ice and water in a large bowl. Drop the nasturtium leaves in the boiling water for 10 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath to rapidly cool. Drain the leaves from the ice bath and place in a food processor or blender.
Add the garlic, hazelnuts and cheese and blend until finely chopped. With the lid on, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until completely combined. Transfer to a glass jar and top with olive oil to help preserve the pesto.
Use the pesto within 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
The gorgeous jar featured in this post is from Kilner Jars with thanks.