Kitchen DIY: Homemade capers

Do you want your neighbours to think you have gone mad? Here’s how.

1. Venture out to the council-managed garden areas (that is to say, those that are overgrown with weeds) on your street, preferably while wearing your gardening hat, gumboots and various other items of misshapen, mismatching clothing.

2. For best results, do this when your neighbours are walking up the street, preferably with their most glamorous friends and perfectly behaved children, in their best clothes.

3. Climb into one of the gardens and start pinching off nasturtium buds and flowers, putting them in the small bowl you have brought with you for this purpose.

4. Wave cheerily as the neighbours pass by. Tell them, when they enquire as to what you are doing, that you are picking the nasturtium buds to make into homemade capers and the flowers are going in tonight’s salad. Watch as the smiles become a bit more fixed and the stares become more glassy.

5. Scramble out of the garden and go to your house, while the net curtains across the street twitch frantically.

Well, that’s not completely accurate – our neighbours are all lovely and very few of them have net curtains. Actually, only the really weird ones have net curtains and we think it’s because they are Up To No Good In There. I do feel a bit of a dork to be sprung essentially harvesting weeds in front of them, but they should be used to it by now. In any case, I love nasturtiums and a bit of embarrassment is worth it.

Homemade Capers

Pickled Nasturtium Buds – aka Homemade Capers
Nasturtium flowers are great in salads and the leaves add a peppery bite to cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches – just pick the smaller ones as the big ones are really fiery. When the flowers have wilted (or been picked by someone like me), pick the little brain-like growths at the base of the flowers and use them in this homegrown version of capers.

At least 1/2 a cup of nasturtium buds, washed and dried
250ml rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
10 peppercorns

Put the vinegar, salt, garlic and peppercorns into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool. Pour into a small sterilised jar, then add the nasturtium buds. Put a lid on the jar and leave for a couple of weeks in a cool place. The buds will be ready to eat when they have sunk to the bottom of the jar. You can keep adding new buds to the liquid.

Are you a forager? What’s your best tip?



  1. January 8, 2014 / 11:07 am

    I've always meant to get around to trying pickling nasturtium buds (honest) but I was waiting for someone else to tell me it works – so thanks for that. Now all I need is summer. I already have the misshapen, mismatching clothing – in fact, I don't have any other sort.

  2. January 8, 2014 / 11:22 am

    ha ha – I am not a forager but I love how some of our neighbours have olive trees on the nature strip – have seen them harvesting them but am not interested enough in style to notice what they were wearing. I always admire nasturtiums in gardens and think they would be pretty in salads but have no clue how they taste or that their buds could be pickled

  3. January 9, 2014 / 5:22 pm

    Oh I love this. I'm all for a spot of foraging. I knew you could eat Nasturtium flowers but had no idea that the buds were edible. The process of pickling them sounds quite simple and they look so pretty.
    If you have any red mulberry trees in your area I highly recommend foraging some fruit. They are amazing, make awesome sorbet and the best fruit crumble ever…but perfect just to eat straight from the tree. It might be advisable to wear red whilst doing so because they dye anything the juice falls on a gorgeous red…You literally might get caught red handed.
    Happy foraging.

    • January 12, 2014 / 7:26 am

      That is the best news re mulberries, because we now have a (legitimately acquired) mulberry tree in our garden! I can't wait for our first harvest now – but hope the fruit will taste as good as the stolen stuff…

  4. January 10, 2014 / 5:34 am

    I did this one year – the preserving the seeds, not the pantomime with the neighbours – and they are delicious. Shame that Nasturtiums took over my garden so I banished them and now they are crawling all over the compost bin :o)

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