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RI Archives: Food

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Recipe: Nasturtium Vodka

Rural Intelligence FoodBerkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region.

I plant nasturtiums throughout my garden every year. Like the marigold, I think of them as an underdog of ornamental gardening. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible, and both have a peppery taste to them. Even the tiny seedpods can be pickled, and they taste very like capers. In fact, according to my great grandmother, a woman I’ve never met but have gotten to know through her books on flowers, the nasturtium was once far more for eating than for decorating. In her book, Flower Chronicles (which I would love even if I were not related to the author), she tells the story of John Evelyn, a 17th century British diarist (Can I be a diarist? I think that’s a much better word than “blogger”) who wrote a discourse on salads.

Rural Intelligence FoodShe quotes from his Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets:

“‘...we are by Sallet to understand a Composition of certain Crude and fresh Herbs, such as usually are, or may safely be eaten with some Acetous Juice, Oyl, Salt, &., to give grateful gust and Vehicle.”‘ A ‘sallet’ of nasturtiums might contain some or all of ‘the tender leaves, Calices, Cappuchin Capers, and flowers laudibly mixed with the colder plants.’ These ‘herby ingredients’…remain a while in the Cullender and finally swung together gently in a clean coarse napkin; and so they will be in perfect condition to receive the Intinctus following.’ The ‘Intinctus’ consists, in part, of ‘Oyl…without smell or the least touch of rancid;…the best Wine Vinegar…; Salt…of the brightest Bay gray-salt; Mustard…tempered to the consistency of a pap with vinegar.’”

And there you have it, a history of nasturtiums in vinaigrette from a true diarist. I love it.

Rural Intelligence FoodI use nasturtiums in salad, I blend their petals into compound butter, and I infuse white vinegar with their flowers.

But today, my favorite nasturtium recipe: nasturtium vodka, although it’s really not so much of a recipe at all.

Pick nasturtium flowers. Inspect and shake out the bugs (but do not wash). Put into a bottle of vodka. I use about 10 flowers per 250 ml of vodka. Taste after a few days. Keep tasting over the days, and it’s done when it tastes strong and peppery to you.

This batch took 3 weeks, and that was perfect for me. This vodka tastes very like nasturtiums, so I predict that if you are a fan of the taste of the flower, you will like the vodka as well. If you’ve never tried one, pop the whole thing in your mouth and crunch away.

Nasturtium vodka makes a great martini (nasturtini?), or for those who need a bit more dilution, lime and tonic or bubbly water is lovely. Garnish with a fresh nasturtium. — Alana Chernila

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Posted by Bess Hochstein on 08/19/12 at 09:01 AM • Permalink