How to Forage (and Eat!) Nasturtium Flowers

PHOTO BY RYAN BENOIT

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?”

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Clark was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. His stepfather is a chef and food writer, and used to host a public-access cooking show in Puerto Rico.

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Want to add some excitement to your salad? For extra garnish points, you can leave the petals loosely connected after removing their stems and sepals.

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.

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In an interesting twist, nasturtium flowers (Tropaeolum majus) are not closely related to the watercress plants of the Nasturtium genus — even though nasturtium flowers taste like watercress!

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In Columbus, North Carolina, Clark worked as a chef at Giardini, which made meals fresh from its onsite garden; a favorite ingredient were the fresh figs he would soak in port.

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!”

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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

– raisins

– 1 clove garlic, minced

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Directions:

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.

8. Graze!

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The Loro salad with balled goat cheese wrapped in nasturtium petals.

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…or you can just toss the petals in among the greens.

 

Come visit our nasturtium community garden page and see nasturtium blooms captured throughout the world on Instagram. -TH

  • This is a wonderful article! I’m growing nasturtiums for the first time this year, and I can’t wait to make such a beautiful salad.

    • Thanks, Athena! The petals really do add an extra, almost mysterious oomph to the dish. Let us know how your salad goes!

  • Marc d’Entremont

    Nice article, recipe and beautiful photos

  • mo44

    My 7yr old son absolutely loves eating the flowers,he just picks them and munches away,he can spot them where ever we go,but I have loads growing in the garden this year 🙂

    • Lucky! Oh, to be 7 years old again and be able to eat yummy flowers 🙂

  • Rachelle Nelson

    I am growing these for the flowers this year, can you eat the leaves as well?

    • Rachelle, exciting! We had to double check Mother Earth News, which says yes, these beautiful round leaves are edible. The makings of one gorgeous salad…