Other Names: Blomkarse (Norwegian); blomsterkarse or kapuciner karse (Danish); cappuccina, nasturzio del Perù, or nasturzio indiano (Italian); capuchina, espuela de Galán, or nasturcia (Spanish); capucienerkers (Dutch); capucine or cresson d’Inde (French); chaga seca (Portuguese); common nasturtium; garden nasturtium; indejskij kress, kaputsin-kress, or nasturtsiya (Russian); Indian cress; indiankrasse (Swedish); indische kresse or kapuzinerkresse (German); kova ha-nazir (Hebrew); ladan (Farsi); lâtin çiçeği (Turkish); nabatu al-kabbusin (Arabic).

General Description: Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) has peppery-tasting, flat, circular leaves that resemble water lily pads and colorful, open trumpet-shaped blossoms, each ending in a curved, cone-shaped tip that’s slightly sweet and peppery. Nasturtium means “nose twist,” referring to its sharp, biting flavor. Although unrelated botanically, nasturtium is often grouped with cresses because their flavors and uses are similar, and in fact, the botanical name for watercress is Nasturtium officinale. The colorful, edible, though fragile nasturtium blossoms may be found in colors such as tangerine, salmon, gold, deep red mahogany, scarlet, and cherry red; some are speckled. The young fresh leaves and flowers give bite to savory foods, and the unripe seed pods are pickled as an inexpensive substitute for capers; though larger than capers, they’re just as tasty. In Europe and North America, nasturtium is combined with cottage cheese, butter, or cream cheese as a filling for tea sandwiches.

Season: The plants flower in mid to late summer. The leaves are best when they’re young, early in late spring.

Purchase and Avoid: Nasturtium is always used fresh. Choose lively, brightly colored blossoms without shriveling or brown edges. To avoid pesticides, buy blossoms packaged for eating or garnishing, or from a farmers’ market.

Storage: The blossoms are quite fragile and will keep 1 to 2 days at most after picking. For best results, arrange flowers in a single layer on dampened paper towels and enclose in plastic before refrigerating.

Serving Suggestions: Sprinkle chopped young nasturtium leaves on light vegetable soups, scrambled eggs, or omelets. Chop the blossoms finely and fold them into softened butter along with chopped shallots, salt, and pepper; use atop grilled fish, chicken, seafood, or vegetables. Sprinkle nasturtium blossoms on ceviche or thinly sliced raw tuna, salmon, or beef carpaccio.

Food Affinities: Butter, cream cheese, eggs, fish, lemon, peas, ricotta cheese, salmon, shallot, tuna, watercress, vinegar.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com