Lunch With Friends

IMG_0322I ate some old friends for lunch today.

It’s the only way to get rid of them. They keep coming back like relatives you miss until they come and stay for months, or the chatty kind of people you try to evade at parties but just can’t. Everywhere you turn, there they are, all bright, happy, and softhearted — the kind you just can’t say no to — and they know it.

I’m talking about nasturtiums. I planted a few one year – I don’t know when. It doesn’t matter. If you say yes to a packet of nasturtium seeds, you will be living with the results for the rest of your life and beyond. The generations springing from that one packet will thrive long after you’re gone.

The term ‘invasive’ does not begin to describe the goings on among the nasturtiums in my backyard. These guys have no respect for boundaries, they sprout, climb, spill over the retaining wall, and completely smother the diedes I planted to add a little structure, a little class to the place.

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Nasturtiums thrive on neglect which is, as it happens, is the cornerstone of my gardening strategy. Then, just when they’re really getting out of hand, they do something charming, like blossom. First a yellow one, then an orange, sometimes a red. They hide among the leaves and then peek out like flirts until one morning you wake up and the whole tangle is ablaze. It’s kind of like a slow-motion floral fireworks display that marks the coming and going of spring here in California. Plus, they hide the weeds.

How can you hate that?

I don’t really. I’m just not comfortable with what they tell visitors about my gardening habits. Clearly the nasturtiums are in control of the landscape, not me. But I tell people I planted them for food. Each blossom harbors a sweet, juicy burst which somehow goes perfectly with the peppery petals. Harvest happens when I let the dog out or when I feel like making a salad.

So, for a few months every year, I let them have their way. The first leaves sprout in December or January and they just sort of poke along, getting bigger and greener. The blossoms start to appear in March and by the end of April or early May, they explode into color. I eat as many as I can and then yank them out.

They don’t care. They always come back.

Lunch:

I added my friends to a salad of greens, fennel, goat cheese and toasted pignoli nuts. Chop up the stems too – they are delicious!

Lunch with my friends

Lunch with my friends

PS: Turns out there are all kinds of ways to use these babies. Here some of the ones I found. If you try any, let me know how they turned out!

Nasturtium pesto!

http://bloomsandfood.com/2012/05/31/nasturtium-pesto-lower-food-miles-version-recipe/

http://www.rootsimple.com/2011/05/nasturtium-flower-and-pistachio-pesto-a-story-in-pictures/

Soup!

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-potato-nasturtium-leaf-soup

Lots of other ways to eat ’em
http://www.yummly.com/recipes/nasturtium