nasturtium pesto

nasturtium pesto
My neighbourhood was a riot of colourful nasturtiums, that have self-seeded in any nook and cranny they can find. It was a bright spot in what is normally a somewhat grey patch of inner city London.

Local mothers walking their children home from school stop by a particularly pretty swathe. The children love the pretty bright orange colours of the nasturtium flowers and are intrigued to learn that both the flowers and the leaves are edible. I love the fact that this is a lesson learned early and I hope it might be something that they can look back on in future. Some of my fondest memories are of walking around the garden and parks with my father while he pointed out edible flowers - a lesson that you won't be surprised to know I was eager to learn!

A few days ago, I noticed that this particular patch of nasturtiums was looking a bit bedraggled. It has been quite hot recently and it was possible that the plant needed watering. I just had a horrible feeling that something more sinister was afoot. Sadly, I was right. The plant had been given a helping hand. This morning it was gone - everything, leaves and flowers dug up - leaving a rather scabby and decrepit wall with nothing to disguise its ugliness.

I don't know which nincompoop decided to send the blameless nasturtium to the garden compost in the sky, but they have definitely made this little patch of dirt and crumbling wall, a little gloomier. Having said that, I have plans to do a spot of guerrilla gardening with some fresh compost and a few seedlings. And you never know, in a few months’ time, there might be another bright spot in my neighbourhood that will give the local children something to squeal over and chomp on!

My garden is awash with nasturtiums. I love them for their bright colours and the fact that it is impossible to kill them, weed killer notwithstanding.

I often make a nasturtium pesto, using the leaves and flowers (as well as the pickled seeds, which are very like capers). Well, it is said that the best things in life are free . . .

Make sure that you have checked over the nasturtiums for pests. They are highly attractive to black fly, which is why I have so many of them in the garden. Not because I want black fly, but because nasturtium grow so well in poor conditions and I am a somewhat erratic gardener, so that my garden is rich in these plants. I regard them in the light of floral "cannon fodder" - they sacrifice themselves to black fly, which keeps my other plants pest-free. It is a bit of a win-win situation.

This pesto is perfect with pasta but also rather nice as an accompaniment to roast lamb.

Makes 1 small jar
Skill level: Easy

40g nasturtium leaves
3 nasturtium flowers (optional)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
25g pine nuts
75ml olive oil
1 tsp pickled capers, rinsed and a splash of lemon juice (optional)
40g pecorino, finely grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. The older and bigger the nasturtium leaves, then the more peppery they are. I would use a mixture of old and young leaves. If the old leaves are tough, it is worth blanching them in boiling water for 10 seconds and draining before using.
  2. Check that the nasturtium flowers are pest-free. I just rinse under cold water and leave to dry out a little.
  3. Whizz the nasturtium leaves, flowers (if using), garlic, pine nuts, capers and olive oil together in a blender.
  4. If you prefer a more tangy flavour then add pickled capers and a splash of lemon juice.
  5. Stir through the grated pecorino.
  6. Check the seasoning and serve.


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

This is genius and once again a lovely bit of prose and a memory of your father Henry who I believe from memory was also a great story teller.I would love to know more about pickling the seeds if you ever have a moment.
Alas they destroy Broad beans crops too."Blighters" my father used to say

Anonymous said...

That's a new one on me and sounds completely delicious. What a good idea!

Kavey said...

Oh! I've known these were edible for years but never thought to do anything but include them in salads. Love this idea!

Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry said...

Genius recipe. Passing this to the pesto maestro in my household.