A couple weeks ago I read something in passing about making capers with seedpods other than those of the caper bush (Capparis spinosa). The suggestion was nasturtium buds: a similar size, with a nice crunch and a slow, fizzling, aromatic spiciness.
Last week, everywhere I walked in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Point Richmond, I stumbled across nasturtiums growing untended; the ‘weeds’ of the bay area. I found them growing up telephone poles, seeping through garden fences, carpeting the banks of ditches and the forest floor. Literally, everywhere.
A nice problem to have if you ask me.
Let it be noted, then, that as soon as I arrived, Dad showed me the two beautiful jars of nasturtium pickles he’d casually thought to make from the plants he’d been growing on the deck. Maybe there’s a gene for that impulse or something.
In any case, they are, in a word, delicious. Ranging in colour from pale yellow to cream to café au lait, and in size from a split pea to a large chickpea, they cradle a subtle little range of appearance and spiciness; all are wondrously textural, and every one is good to eat.
Today I decided to make a salad. Surprising, I know.
It has three ingredients: nasturtium capers, sliced celery, chopped tamari almonds.
It’s also self-dressing – the vinegar from the capers mixes with some of the tamari coating to make a shockingly good flavour punch that tastes like salt & vinegar chips on crack. Umami, bitter, herbaceous, slightly spicy, tinged with sweetness. What more could you ask for?
A dressing that makes itself, of course.
There was mist over the bay this morning. It was right for this simple and unlikely little salad. I enjoyed it at the windows with a pot of raspberry leaf tea. My friend Shizue in Point Richmond drinks tea multiple times a day and has been since she was young; she inspired me to make it part of my daily habit too. So far it has been wonderful.
Crunchy (in three different ways!), salty, nutty, fibrous, vegetal. Three roles and a whole lotta character.
Be careful of this guy in anything but small batches.