Pickled Nasturtium Seeds || Hitchhiking to Heaven

California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Seeds)

California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Seeds) | Hitchhiking to Heaven

This is my favorite kind of canning project — making something wonderful (and a little bit quirky) from a plant, bush, or tree that we live with every day.

Some people hold Nasturtiums in the same esteem as weeds. The stems and foliage brown to a scraggle by summer’s end. They’re prone to aphids in downright creepy numbers. And once they take hold, they reseed with a vengeance.

Lucky for us, I say! (Well, not about the aphids — but the other parts.)

First of all, the flowers deliver pure, pop-in-the-eye color, and you can eat them in your salads . . .

Nasturtium Flowers | Hitchhiking to Heaven

Second, after the flowers are done, when what’s left starts to turn ugly, look a little closer.

These seedpods are nothing but beautiful — and tasty, when properly prepared.

California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Seeds) | Hitchhiking to Heaven

You can pick the plump green pods and turn them into “false capers.” Soaking the pods in brine for three days (changing the solution once a day) mellows out their peppery burn and turns them into an excellent caper substitute — or an intriguing snack. I opened a jar and somehow they disappeared from the fridge before we had a chance to cook with them.

This recipe, which I adapted from The Splendid Table, calls for a pint of pods, but you can modify it to use what you have. Remember to go for the green pods; the brown ones won’t taste good. They’ll become next year’s crop.
California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Seeds) | Hitchhiking to Heaven

California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Seeds)

1 pint green nasturtium pods
3 cups water (1 cup per day)
4 1/2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt (1 1/2 tablespoons per day)
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
bay leaves (For a 1-pint jar, use 2 fresh leaves or 1 dried. For my quarter-pint jars, I picked one small bay leaf for each jar.)
fresh thyme (For a 1-pint jar, use 2 3-inch sprigs. For quarter-pint jars, I added a 1 1/2-inch sprig to each jar.)

Day One

Pick over the pods to remove any remaining stems or flower bits. Place the pods in a pint jar and cover them with a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 1/2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt. Let them stand, uncovered at room temperature, for one day.

Day Two

Don’t be alarmed by the stinky sulfur smell coming from the pods. I don’t know what causes it, but it’s normal. Drain and rinse the pods and pick out any soggy bits of flowers left behind. Return the pods to the jar and cover them with a fresh mixture of water and salt. Let them stand for another day.

Day Three

Repeat the steps from day two.

Day Four

1. Drain and rinse the pods and put them into the jars you’ll use to keep them. I chose 4 quarter-pint jars so that I can easily give them as gifts.

2. Bring the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and thyme to a boil in a small pan. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the pods, distributing the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme among the jars.

3.  You may process your jars in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes if you like (leaving 1/2-inch head space), but it’s not necessary. If you don’t want to use the water bath, simply allow the vinegar mixture to cool, cover your jars, and store them in or out of the refrigerator — it doesn’t matter which. (Canning expert Linda Ziedrich says so! Scroll down to her post from October 15, 2009 to see how she handles her pods.) I water-bath canned my jars because I thought the tight seal would be better for packing them up and shipping them cross country.

Yields 4 quarter-pint jars.

California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Seeds) | Hitchhiking to Heaven
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  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse August 13, 2010 at 12:49 am

    It seems they are a prettier than capers too.

  • Reply Seeking solace in sustenance... August 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Shae, you're killin' me! Googled where to pick blackberries in Fairfax this a.m. (hankering to make blackberry jam…today) and found you. I too am: a UC grad, degree in Rhetoric, Phi Beta Kappa, MC Fair award-winning jam maker (also to my surprise), blogger (albeit novice)and Fairfax native! Crazy. Anyway, off to find berries with the kids but in case we can't find the brambles I remember as a kid, can you reveal any of your secret spots? Find me at http://www.makemudpies.com.

  • Reply Seeking solace in sustenance... August 14, 2010 at 3:19 am

    UC Davis, '85 (God, was it that long ago?), Rhetoric minor, Econ major. Did a quick Fairfax drive-through today but the force wasn't with me. Thanks for the tip on the post office. Mom said that her friend made a boatload of jam last week from berries found in Kentfield near COM…still hunting!PS loved the info on the Homegrown Marin Market…had no idea. I'll try to check it out and will stop by and say hi if you're there. Donna

  • Reply tigress August 14, 2010 at 4:33 am

    i totally want to make these! but these little seed pods are hiding out on me – or i need to learn a whole lot more about flowers. i am such a veggie geek. buy i grew nasurtiums just to make these. so i am not giving up finding these little suckers! they look so fun and delicious in those jars! and i do love regular capers…

  • Reply Gloria August 18, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Perfect timing (obviously!) Meant to plant nasturtiums but didn't get round to it but have my eye on a wild patch at bottom of next doors garden covered with sprawling nasturtiums. Want to can some 1. Because I've never done it before 2. Because they are what you need to make tartar sauce to go with fish and chips. Thanksamundo.

  • Reply maltagirl August 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    very nice! I tried this for the first time this year! so yummy!!!!

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven August 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Denise: I agree. As far as looks go, capers don't have much to recommend them. These brown up a bit when they're in the brine, but they're still more interesting.

    Seeking Solace: I hope you've come into a haul of blackberries by now. It's been a strange season. I won't be at the market this Saturday, but maybe I'll do it again this winter. (I make a lot of jam, but not enough to sell at a market every month!)

    Tigress: You may not have found them in your garden (this year), but you will find them in your mailbox. :-)

    Gloria: Go grab those pods! It's so fun to do something like this for the first time. I hope you'll let me know how it goes.

    Maltagirl: I love how these are catching on!

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