The salty, pungent caper which gives you a jolt in salads and perks up no end of Italian dishes and sauces might be doing you more good than you think. Capers contains lots of selenium which, among other things, lifts the libido for both sexes. No wonder Italian ladies of the night favoured rustling up quick pasta with puttanesca sauce between making the bedsprings bounce.
The aptly-named caper might account for all that Mediterranean hot-blood so, as the plant doesn’t grow in Britain, we miss out. But not entirely. We have the poor man’s caper in the pickled nasturtium seed. I’m not sure how much selenium these contain compared to the real thing but, properly done, they are almost dead-ringers in taste.
Nasturtiums are in full bloom and going to seed right now so you might want to try pickling them yourself. I go around with a plastic bag and collect the seeds as and when I see them as I don’t have enough from my own garden. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge while you collect the quantity needed. Aim for enough to fill at least a small jar.
I love nasturtiums (the name is Latin for twisted nose) because the leaves (best to go for the smaller, paler ones at the top of the plant) makes a peppery addition to salads, as do the red and yellow flowers, which are edible.
Collect enough seeds (making sure they are still bright green and not going brown) to fill a small jar, wash and divide them. You’ll find the individual seeds cluster together in two or threes. Because they contain a lot of mustard oil you’ll need to brine them for a couple of days in a solution of 50g salt to 450ml of water. Rinse to remove excess salt.
Then you need to pickle them in a spiced vinegar. Avoid murky malt vinegar but go for white or cider, infused with, say, celery seeds, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, a handful of pickling spices or what you will. Strain the vinegar before pouring over the seeds.
I find no need to keep them in the fridge, even when opened. They should be ready in two or three weeks. You’ll find them firm and savoury with crunchy little centres and great flavour enhancers, in salads, sauces and on pizzas. I chop them up and add them to fish cakes and pop them in my jars of home made Italian pickles. And who knows what they do for my libido!
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