Jerry Traunfeld’s Nasturtium Capers

Adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld (Scribner 2000)

Nasturtiums are true multi-use flowers.  They’re easy to grow and beautiful, and they attract pollinators to your garden to boot.  Both nasturtium flowers and young leaves are edible as long as you grow them organically, which isn’t hard to do.  They provide a peppery punch similar to watercress in salads, and the flowers add a gorgeous splash of color.  Nasturtiums even contain decent amounts of vitamin C.

A regular caper is the flower bud of the Capparis spinosa plant and its seedpod is called a caper berry, which is also delicious (especially in a bloody mary) when brined.  The seedpods of nasturtiums look just like the caper plant’s buds, and they taste similar to capers once pickled.  In my opinion they’re better.  Nasturtiums form seedpods in late summer; you’ll find them attached to the stems underneath the foliage, where they develop in clusters of three.  You want young pods that are still green since mature seedpods turn yellowish and hard.

Last summer, Dan caught this pretty amazing picture of a hummingbird in his nasturtium patch:

Isn’t he/she cute???  Here’s another great shot.  Can you find our hummingbird friend in this pic?

This recipe calls for two steps: Brining and Pickling.  The process takes about a week, so plan accordingly.  Not to worry, most of the work is waiting for the salt to work its magic on the raw seedpods:

You’ll need:

  • tablespoons canning or kosher salt
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup green nasturtium seedpods
  • 1.5 cups white wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 fresh bay leaves, or 2 dried
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme


1.  Bring the salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan.

2.  Put the nasturtium seedpods in a pint glass jar and pour the boiling brine over them.

3.  Cover and let them soak at room temperature for 3 days.


4.  Drain the nasturtium seedpods in a fine sieve and return them to the jar.

5.  Bring the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and thyme to a boil in a small (1-quart) saucepan.

6.  Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the seedpods and let cool.

7.  Cover the jar and refrigerate for three days before using.

These little beauties will keep for 6 months in the fridge if fully submersed in the vinegar.



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