Nasturtium has got to be one of the most underrated — and tastiest — plants of mid-spring. Maybe it’s just too easy to take its flowers for granted; their brilliant red, yellow and orange blossoms are beyond abundant this time of year, blanketing canyons, flashing traffic and bursting through fences alongside their distinctive, platter-shaped (peltate) leaves.
“It brings nature’s magic to the dinner table,” says Clark Loro about the edible Tropaeolum majus. “The petals are velvety soft and slightly peppery to the taste, but their main strength is in the vibrant color they add to a dish, and the elegant shape of the flower itself. Here you have instant romance, or the chance to get young people excited about a salad. It’s easy, free…what’s not to love?”
Clark, who moved here to San Diego two months ago from North Carolina, is a chef, artist, video editor and singer. And — for one warm afternoon last week — he became our nasturtium foraging spirit guide.
C met him during a tipsy work lunch. Over margaritas we exchanged notes on edible flowers suspended in ice; Clark once made an entire salad bowl out of ice, with blossoms frozen inside. Needless to say, a friendship made in hunt-and-gather heaven was born that day. On a piece of tortilla paper, Clark drew a map leading to a forage-friendly patch of nasturtiums.
When we all met up at the appointed intersection, we found ourselves in the middle of a residential neighborhood off a major street. But then it all changed when Clark led us down a gravelly alleyway. We were transported: Suddenly we were surrounded by waist-high grasses, rows of wild agave, prickly pear cactuses and a majestic, weeping pepper tree. And legions of flame-colored of nasturtium flowers.
“Foraging is a very primal rite for all living beings,” says Clark. “I relish in the freedom of foraging; sometimes you go out with a plan and sometimes you discover the unexpected. Start a garden and forage from the comfort of your own backyard if you can!”
We gathered a couple dozen nasturtiums by pinching them off at the stems. After taking them home, we included them in a salad according to Clark’s instructions — right down to the goat cheese balls covered in nasturtium petals.
We call this salad The Loro:
Ingredients (serves two)
– 10 nasturtium flowers, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
– goat cheese
– 6 oz. baby greens
– 2 tablespoons almonds
– balsamic vinaigrette
– 1 clove garlic, minced
1. Roll goat cheese into balls of about ½-inch diameter.
2. Peel away and discard nasturtium sepals, then gently pluck the petals.
3. Smooth petals onto goat cheese balls, arranging them into a floral shape.
5. Toss remaining ingredients
6. Salt and pepper to taste.
7. Garnish with petal-covered cheese balls.
Come visit our nasturtium community garden page and see nasturtium blooms captured throughout the world on Instagram. -TH