Poor mans capers & dolmas: lacto-fermented nasturtium seeds & leaves
If you grow nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), you probably have a lot of them, as they are vigorous growers and are quick to reseed. I absolutely love them to add the flowers a pop of color to my salads in the summer. Their flavor is spicy, but also a little bit sweet. In addition to the flowers, you can also eat the unripe seed pods and leaves. They are very high in vitamin C and iron and are the densest plant source of lutein, which is important in reducing the risk of cataract and macular degeneration.1 In addition, the flowers have shown excellent free radical scavenging activities along with high phenolic and ascorbic acid content.2 I have made the leaves into a spicy pesto before, but though I might try my hand at lacto-fermenting some of the larger leaves to use as a dolma wrap this winter. I also decided to lacto-ferment the unripe (still green) seed pods while I was at it to make a caper-esque type condiment. Lacto-fermentation uses a salt brine and an anaerobic (without air) environment whereby beneficial bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, which inhibits harmful bacteria and acts as a preservative. It makes for a tangy, sour, delicious pickle!
nasturtium seed pods (enough to fill a small jar)
1 small nasturtium leaf (slightly larger than the opening of the mouth of the small jar)
20-30 large nasturtium leaves
1 pint jar
3 tablespoons sea salt, pickling salt or kosher salt (non-iodized is what's key here)
1. Thoroughly clean jars and set aside to dry.
2. Mix 3 tablespoons salt into 1 quart room-temperature water until dissolved.
3. Stack half of the large nasturtium leaves, roll and place into pint jar. Do the same with the other half, leaving one leaf out.
4. Put seed pods into small jar.
5. Cover leaves and seeds with brine
6. With the extra small and large leaves use these to form a cover, and keep the plant material from floating up to the surface. The goal here is to have all the plant material kept submerged under the brine, thus creating an anaerobic environment. Top off with more brine if necessary.
7. Cover the tops of the jars with a coffee filter and rubber band.
8. Put in a cool place out of direct sunlight and allow to sit.
9. Begin tasting after a few days, and when they taste to your liking, remove coffee filter, screw on lid and put in the refrigerator!
1. Niizu P, Rodriguez-Amaya DB. Flowers and Leaves of Tropaeolum majus L. as Rich Sources of Lutein. Journal of Food Science. 2005;70(9). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2005.tb08336.x.
2. Garzón G, Wrolstad R. Major anthocyanins and antioxidant activity of Nasturtium flowers (Tropaeolum majus). Food Chemistry. 2009;114(1):44-49. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.09.013.