nasturtium vodka

Today, let’s just sit here and have a drink.

I have music for you, too. I’m just back from the farmers’ market, where it was so hot that the only thing wilting faster than us was the parsley. It was one of those days where customers would make jokes and I wouldn’t hear them, or I would make jokes and the customers wouldn’t get them, and the line nearly extended into the dusty center of the market as the dogs bickered and tripped other people with their leashes. I, for one, need a drink and a some music other than the tunes streaming up from the kid’s concert just beyond the market all morning. You can download the new mix here, if you like, and we can listen to it together.  I need to get “Little Bunny Foo-Foo” out of my head, and I’m hoping it will do the trick.

I plant nasturtiums all 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 seventeenth century British diarist (can I be a diarist? I think that’s a much better word than “blogger”), who wrote a discourse on salads. She 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.

I 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.

Happy weekend, friends. I’m off to pitch a tent with Joey and the girls at the ocean this week, but I’ll be back soon, with salt in my hair and (I hope) a bit of ocean in my cells.


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19 Responses to nasturtium vodka

  1. Sara says:

    I always plant nasturtiums, mean to use the flowers, but just end up leaving them. I put them in raised beds this year rather than pots and I’m amazed at how they’ve taken off. Apparently you can pickle the pods for sort of a “faux” caper but I haven’t ever tried it. Have fun at the ocean!

  2. I know you had a long day, so here’s some help. Typo alert: the only *thing* wilting… :)

    My husband and I made soft pretzels today. Cheese is on the agenda for tomorrow.

  3. Hannah says:

    Beautiful! Terrific ‘ancient’ recipe for salad, which I might have to start calling sallet. And diarist does have a certain ring to it …

    I love nasturtiums, my problem is the way they COMPLETELY TAKE OVER anywhere that I let them grow (we don’t have to plant them, they spring like the proverbial weed here). The sweet tiny plants that appear in spring are monstrous by mid-summer, climbing up and over and through anything else growing near them. I think I might try some in pots and see if they can be contained … it’s certainly not their nature, but they need to learn to get along, if only long enough so I can make this vodka :)

    • alana says:

      Oh, Hannah, you and your prolific garden complaints! One summer, you and I can switch gardens, and then I will complain all summer about my overflowing beds! :-)
      But really- I love it. It sounds like heaven out there in CA.

  4. Barb says:

    Here in the midwest, all I have are leaves on my nasturtiums this year. No flowers. The dry, hot weather has allowed me very few cukes, a few tomatoes (most blooms wither and die), and flowers are hard to come by. I’m enjoying looking at the beauty of your photos and reminding me that next year will be better.

  5. Nasturtiums are my favorite edible blossoms—I just made some nasturtium vinegar the other day, now I need to try the vodka.

  6. Eileen says:

    I make a bunch of different infused vodkas, but I haven’t tried nasturtium! What a great reason to let them take over the front yard. :)

  7. Alicia says:

    So pretty! I love floral infused spirits, and this looks like gartending at its finest!

  8. I swore I wouldn’t buy one more (not ONE more!!) cookbook, since my shelves are just absolutely overflowing with them (probably because I always buy “just ONE more”.) Anyways. I was doing really good, and hadn’t bought any new ones for quite the while. But, alas, I was recently at the book store and fell upon your cookbook. There wasn’t a prayer in the world that would have stopped me from purchasing it. And, as luck would have it, I was googling today for a “how-to” on freezing kale and your website popped up. Just wanted to give you a shout out of THANKS for being my new go-to, kitchen inspiration! :D

  9. dono says:

    this plant and that alchohol are two of my favorites from each grouping- i’m SO gonna do this (although our nesturtiums haven’t been holding up in the heat).

    but as for teh music- i get an error message when i try to open it <: (

  10. Lori says:

    Nasturtium vodka martinis kept us happy during a difficult post-Hurricane Sandy week. Thank you.

  11. Pingback: making your own infused vodka with fruits + spices + herbs | holly & flora

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