pickled nasturtium pods

[2 Aug 2012 | By | 8 Comments]

nasturtium pods

You can what? Did I hear you correctly? Make your own capers?

I recently earned my Master Certificate in Preservation—a credential I am tickled about. In a nutshell (or should I say ‘in a jar’?) it means I have the ‘creds’ to teach home canning and preservation. And this doesn’t mean just hot water bath canning and jam-making. I will be sharing with you a plethora of recipes and ideas for dehydrating and freezing, small-batch preservation, pressure canning, curing, pickling and fermenting. (If you are in Seattle, you can ping me for a private, hands-on class).


It was an off-handed mention from another class participant: you can use nasturtium pods to make your own capers. Also known as ‘California Capers’ (some folks prefer them to traditional capers). I could NOT have been happier.

I debated growing nasturtiums [again] this season because the very thought of colonies of black aphids gnawing on them made me cringe. But I had kept some pods and decided to pop them into the ground. For the bees…  and so my salads would be speckled with bright orange, red and yellow blossoms. As a farmer I constantly learn and decide: put it in, take it out, rotate crops, how to deal with slugs, what to plant for ‘over-wintering’, when to harvest garlic and more. I love it. And that is just in the planting and growing end of things.

nasturtium blossoms

As a chef half the fun comes in deciding what to do with all that yummy homegrown food. I love discovering how to ‘treat each food best.’ In other words: shall I pickle, can, dry or freeze the rhubarb? For apples: I can choose to make jelly or applesauce, pie or dried cinnamon sugar ‘chips’. With nasturtiums it was sheer joy to find out I could not only 1. use the flowers in my salad but 2. dry them and pulverize them for a peppery seasoning, and 3. use the seed pods to pickle my own capers.

nasturtium podsdried nasturtium flowers

I pick the flowers to eat fresh and dry for later, then leave some of the flowers to die on the vine—and consequently turn into pods. Once they have turned to pods, I pluck them off the stems and turn them into salty, pickled capers. (FYI if the pods are brown or have fallen to the ground, keep them for next year’s planting—you don’t want to pickle brown pods).

I found/adapted this pickled nasturtium recipe via Hitchhiking to Heaven, which was adapted from The Splendid Table:

pickled nasturtiums

Pickled Nasturtium Pods

1 pint green nasturtium pods
3 cups water
4 1/2 tablespoons pickling OR kosher salt (pickling and kosher salts are more pure than table salts—they don’t have anti-caking additives)
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
bay leaves
fresh thyme

Day One
Pick your pods and give them a quick rinse. Remove flowers bits and extra stems. Place in a jar or glass container with 1 cup water and 1 1/2 T salt (to cover). Let them stand at room temp, uncovered for 24 hours.

Day Two
Yes it starts to stink. Think sulfur or rotten eggs. ITS OKAY. Just giggle or blame someone passing by—teenage boys are a great target. Drain and rinse pods, picking out any little flower bits or debris. Put in clean jar/container and cover with a cup of water and 1 1/2 T of the salt. Let stand for another day.

Day Three
Repeat rinsing and brining process a third time. Let stand again.

Day Four
1. Drain and rinse the pods and put them into jars (I used quarter pint jars).

2. Place a bay leaf and sprig of thyme in each jar.

3. Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small pan. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the pods.

4. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes (1/2 inch head space).

Yields 4 quarter-pint jars.

pickled nasturtium pods (DIY capers) on Punk Domestics
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  • Karista said (2 August 2012 at 1:30 pm):

    Brilliant Janelle! I had no idea nasturium pods could be made into capers. Congratulations on your Master Certificate in Preservation!

  • emmycooks said (2 August 2012 at 3:26 pm):

    I love this idea and can’t wait to continue to hear all that you’ve learned! I didn’t grow nasturtiums this year for the same reason (last year the aphids were a mess), so it’s borage flowers for salad all summer. But next year when I grow nasturtiums again I will definitely remember to come looking for this recipe!

  • Sakura said (3 August 2012 at 10:05 am):

    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe out.

  • Eileen said (3 August 2012 at 12:26 pm):

    Now that is an excellent reason to plant a bed of nasturtiums! Thanks for the great idea!

  • Rhiana Jones said (3 August 2012 at 8:34 pm):

    I’m totally dying to find out where you go to earn a Master Certificate in Preservation?

  • Janelle (author) said (4 August 2012 at 2:59 pm):

    Karista: thank you!
    Emmy: borage! Mmmmm dry some and make borage herb!
    Sakura: yippy! LMK what you think.
    Eileen: glad you found me!
    Rhiana: Seattle Tilth provided the class via the WSU extention program. There are a few across the country but you have to dig around to find them;)))

  • Shut Up & Cook said (6 August 2012 at 12:55 pm):

    My husband is nutty about capers…I can only imagine how he would feel if he got homemade ones lovingly prepared by his wife. Come to think of it though…he’d probably be just as happy if he got homemade ones lovingly prepared by someone else’s wife. Like you. So hand ‘em over! :-)

  • Seasonal Canning: Picklefest 2012! | SLUGS said (1 September 2012 at 1:58 pm):

    […] Pickled Nasturtium Pods (aka DIY Capers!):  great looking small-batch recipe from Taste of Tomatoes. […]