This year, spring and early summer were super hectic for me, so the window boxes that hang in the little courtyard just inside the back gate remained empty and neglected well into June.
There are no less than five good-sized window boxes in this small courtyard. Filling them with annuals can get pretty pricy, so I decided to be frugal, and despite the late start, grow flowers from seed. Trailing nasturtiums seemed like a perfect choice.
I love nasturtiums! They are such bright, happy flowers. They're also really super easy to grow from seed. Nasturtiums like lots of sun and rather poor soil (if the soil is too rich, they will produce lots of leaves and very few flowers). Nasturtiums seedlings prefer not to be transplanted, so its better to plant the seeds directly out in the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Little green shoots should appear 7-10 days after the seeds have been planted.
As well as the familiar bright orange, yellow and red flowers, nasturtiums come in a range of colors including a soft butter yellow, pale peach and deep red.
The growth habit of most types of nasturtiums is quite bushy, but there are cultivars that climb/trail. There are even varieties with interesting variegated foliage.
Both nasturtium foliage and flowers are edible. Pick the flowers or leaves from the plant, rinse them in cool running water and pat them dry before eating them. The flavour is peppery and spicy and is often compared to the taste of radishes.
Fall was uncharacteristically mild this year, and even late into October, my nasturtiums were still going strong. Frost was bound to strike at any time, so I decided there wasn't a moment to loose if I was going to experiment with this year's flowers.
Just before the end of the month, I went out into the garden and picked every flower that remained.
It wasn't a huge harvest, but it was just enough to try making some flavoured butter.
I looked up several recipes and combined their best features into my own version of a recipe. Here's what I did:
3 or 4 tablespoons for chopped nasturtium flowers
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon rind
Set your butter out in a small bowl to bring it to room temperature.
Wash your flowers carefully under running water. Snap the petals off the nasturtium flowers and let them fall onto a sheet of paper towel. Gently pat them dry.
Place the dry petals on a cutting board and cut them into fine pieces with a sharp, serrated knife. (Note: Nasturtium flowers have dark striping on the petals that I was concerned might make the butter look unattractive, but the darker pieces blended in without a problem.)
Add the nasturtium petals to the butter, along with a small pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Grate in a small amount of lemon rind.
With a rubber spatula mix the petals into the softened butter until combined.
Spoon the finished butter out onto a piece of parchment paper. Roll the butter into a small log and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).
Store in the refrigerator. Warm to room temperature when you plan to use the nasturtium butter.
Now, incase you are worried that the flavour of nasturtium butter would be too strong or too spicy to be to you're liking, let me reassure you. The flavour is really quite delicate. In fact, I would caution you not to add too much grated lemon rind or lemon will be the dominant favour note. This butter is rich and creamy with just a very subtle peppery note.
Nasturtium butter takes minutes to make, yet it looks very gourmet. See how incredibly delicious it looks slathered on some golden cornbread. Next time I make this butter, I'd love to try it on a piece of salmon. Nasturtium butter also might be nice on a party tray along with cheese and crackers.
Next summer, it's on to new experiments. I am excited to try making pesto with the leaves following this recipe I found on the blog You Grow Girl.
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making nasturtium butter yourself!