They are ridiculously easy to grow. Each year, around April (or May, at a stretch) I push a few seeds into the soil where I want them to grow and water them in. After that, I treat them with benign neglect and they seem to like it.
Nasturtiums are great in the kitchen too. Shredded, the leaves make a succulent, pungent addition to a salad. Or you can mash up some herby cheese and roll it up in a nasturtium leaf like a cigarette. The flowers are also edible, lending a delicate peppery taste and soft texture to a salad, or scattered around a whole fish in a centrepiece, or just as a beautiful garnish to a vegetable platter.
When the flowers finally fade, around now, they leave behind little green seedpods. Brush your fingers through a tangle of nasturtium plants and you'll see them drop to the ground, the size of peas and a pale jade green.
|The seed pods look like little pale peas
Nasturtium seed pods, still green, to fill a measuring jug to the 200ml mark.
200ml white wine vinegar
A pinch fennel seeds
A pinch peppercorns
2 bay leaves
(The vinegar and salt gives you a basic pickling liquor; the exact nature and amount of aromatics can be played around with.)
Wash and pick over the seed pods, removing any dirt, chaff, blackfly, whatever. Give them a good final rinse and dry on kitchen paper.
Sterilise a jar that will fit the nasturtiums snugly – a complete dishwasher cycle should do the trick, or wash in very hot soapy water, then dry by placing the jar upside down on a rack in an oven heated to 120 degrees.
Put the bay leaves in the bottom of the jar and fill up with the seed pods. Bring the vinegar, fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt to the boil. I do this in a jug in the microwave – the vinegar smell is less pervasive. Then pour the liquid and aromatics over the seed pods in the jar. Seal and let the jar cool before storing in the fridge. They’ll keep for a good six months if kept chilled.