Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pin It

Firing up the Preserves Pot

Helping me move to college when I was 18, my father lifted one appliance, stopped, and put it on the floor. "Matthew Rowley," he sighed, "You are the only person I know who would move a vacuum cleaner full of dirt." 

The lesson stuck. I remain, to this day, one of the most streamlined travelers you're likely to meet. With very rare exceptions, if it doesn't fit on carry-on, it doesn't come with me.

When it seemed we were moving to Louisiana, I put my tendency to can, bottle, and preserve on hiatus. After all, moving suits and kitchen knives to another state is one thing. Moving heavy, fragile jars of marmalade, of young ginger in syrup, of BBQ sauce, and piquillo ketchup...that's just foolish.

Now that we're committed to San Diego and summer is on us, I've fallen back to my old ways. This week, I made syrups from strawberries, cantaloupe, and Thai tea.

I also finally got around to making what 17th century texts called "Capuchin capers" from nasturtium buds. San Diego is blanketed with nasturtium plants — their flame-colored flowers running up and down canyons and fencerows. In the Spring and Summer once the flowers wilt, the crawling vines are spotted with hundreds of bulging little pods. In French, nasturtiums are called capucines, presumably after capucins, the Capuchin friars who — I'm stretching here — may have grown them in monastic medicine gardens.

Suspect francophone etymology notwithstanding, it turns out that, like capers, nasturtium buds may be brined, pickled, and used just as imported Sicilian capers. In fact, they're freakishly similar. Same peppery bite and very nearly the same smell. I plan to use them in salads over the course of the Summer.

The biggest obstacle to a little wild harvesting? Rattlesnakes in our canyons. Something those austere Capuchin friars never had to worry about in Europe while gathering nasturtiums.



Trid said...

I've got a few rogue nasturtiums in the back yard. SWMBO wants more, so I'm planning on seeing if cuttings will take. I'll have to keep an eye out for the buds, too, as SWMBO has a penchant for capers. Sounds like a fun project.

The Copper Oven said...

got a recipe for them capers? sound mighty tastey.

Matthew Rowley said...

Right. When I get back from New Orleans, I'll post the recipe (such as it is). They are, in fact, tasty little buggers.

Matthew Rowley said...

Right. Capuchin capers recipe posted here: