Nasturtiums are my favorite annuals. Their orange blooms make the mornings brighter, the evenings glow.
This year my nasturtiums have performed as never before. They make beautiful color combinations as they twine through the weathered gray fence, romp around the beruffled hot pink rose, lollop under the rusty birdbath. Any day now they’ll insinuate themselves into the fuzzy, soft green sage. They are brazen hussies. I love that about them.
At dusk, their brilliant orange fluoresces — they look as if they’re lit from within. Not all nasturtiums are orange, of course. There’s a creamy yellow, a vivid Crayola yellow/orange, a deep red, and sometimes, a wussy melted sherbet shade. Generally those “other” colors don’t last a full season, at least not in my garden.
Nasturtiums are more than jeweled bouquets on my kitchen table from early summer to first frost though. They’re edibles that can brighten a salad with their color and peppery taste. Their scent is similar to that of peaches cooking down for jam. And as the flowers die away the seeds can be pickled to make “poor man’s capers.”
A few nights ago I wanted to perk up the “look” of our dinner — predictable green peas, bland white baked potato, and broiled salmon. I garnished our plates with one orange and one yellow nasturtium each. “They’re edible you know,” I said to Peter.
He looked at me askance. My husband does askance better than anyone I know.
“Just try one.” I munched on a flower head. “Mm-mmmm!”
Again with the askance.
“C’mon, if you can eat eel sushi you can try nasturtium,” I ragged.
He nibbled, but was not convinced.
The meal tasted exceptionally good to me, and Peter cleaned his plate saying, as he does when I’ve fixed something he especially likes, “Thank you, ‘Mum.’”
“You liked the salmon then?” He always likes salmon, or just about any fish.
“Must’ve been good,” he said, tipping up his plate. It was as clean as if the dog had licked it.
I chuckled. “Know why it tasted so good, what the difference was?”
He was wary.
“I rolled the fillets in minced nasturtium blossoms,” I said. “That’s what gave them the spiky bite.”
He eyebrows went up, but his lips didn’t move.
The next day our friends Shelia and Jerry were here. I told them the nasturtium-encrusted salmon story while we ate lunch outside. Jerry wrinkled his nose, but Shelia was interested, so I ran to the herb garden the nasturtiums had claimed, picked several each of the different colors, and encouraged a tasting.
Shelia decided she’d plant nasturtiums next year, Jerry didn’t say no, and Peter? The phrase “you can lead a mule to water but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind.