Garden of Eatin' / Everyday Eats & Sweets / Flowers & Herbs / Recipes / You Can Eat That?!

Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium pesto

We’ve had an abnormal amount of rain in LA these past couple of months, and with all the rain came the nasturtiums. Fields of nasturtiums — all over my garden, popping up through the mulch, under the stairs, between the cracks, volunteering everywhere.

Bumper crop of nasturtiums

Most people don’t give nasturtiums a second look. They’re sometimes regarded as weeds, as they reseed easily and will grow absolutely anywhere with the least amount of maintenance. They’re often seen as ornamental annuals, blooming through early summer before the heat turns them into a scraggly mess of vines.

But historically, nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are considered vegetables, hailing from South America and originally cultivated in Peru. The leaves and flowers contain high amounts of mustard oils, which give them a pungent, peppery flavor and are released when the plant is crushed or chewed. (The same oils are found in mustard seeds, horseradish root, and wasabi.)

Mustard oils have active antiobiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, making nasturtiums a natural remedy for everything from skin infections to sinus colds. The leaves are also rich in vitamin C and iron, and anthocyanins in the red and orange flowers make them highly antioxidant. Just make a simple (yet beautiful) salad with the leaves and flowers to gain the many health benefits of this very underrated plant!

But when I end up with a bumper crop of nasturtiums, my favorite use for them is making pesto. The mustard oils in the plant add a spicy kick to this recipe not found in typical pesto, and it’s such a treat to have homegrown, homemade pesto when it’s not basil season!

Nasturtium Pesto

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

4 cups packed nasturtium leaves
2 cups packed nasturtium flowers
1 1/2 cups olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 to 1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

Method

Pick a basket full of fresh, healthy leaves and flowers without any blemishes. If your plants aren’t blooming yet, using only the leaves is fine too. Nasturtiums are highly beneficial in the garden for being natural aphid traps, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not harvesting a colony of aphids along with them!

Nasturtium leaves and flowers

Thoroughly wash and dry the leaves and flowers; tear larger leaves in half.

Nasturtium leaves

Nasturtium flowers

Add the leaves, flowers, garlic, olive oil, walnuts, and Parmesan to a blender or food processor. I like my pesto extra nutty and extra cheesy, so I use the full 1 1/2 cups for each ingredient.

Garlic, walnuts and parmesan for homemade pesto

Add all pesto ingredients to a blender

Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.

Blend all pesto ingredients until smooth

Blend all pesto ingredients until smooth

I love the bright green color!

Ladle the pesto into small jars, refrigerate, and enjoy! It should keep for up to two weeks.

Spicy nasturtium pesto

Fresh nasturtium pesto

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

34 Comments

  • Avatar
    mtn lady
    August 11, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    So hoping Linda or someone will reply to my question about pickling the pods with the chewy tough covering on the bigger pods! Remove it or not? I note other comments are months and even years ago! Also that I posted on the WRONG recipe, though both are related to nasturtiums recipes! I don’t have time to check this posting constantly, but would love an answer before I attempt the pickling, Nothing worse than putting a lot time & ingredients in something to learn you goofed it up!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    mtn lady
    August 10, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I am so happy to have easily found both of your nasturtium recipes as I have a hanging pot of yellow and orange ones and searched for a way to preserve the fresh pods. I knew they were called ‘Poor Man’s Capers’. After eating several of the very small seed pods, I realized they are actually a tiny bit sweet before the zing hits your nose! I love them! I have noticed though, as they get bigger even though still light green, the outer covering gets tough & chewy and can be peeled off. Has anyone else noticed this? And is it an issue? Perhaps the brining helps and the vinegar? Now that I’ve found your recipes, I need to get picking!
    mtn lady in VT

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      August 15, 2017 at 7:07 am

      Hi, the outer covering is not an issue when making poor man’s capers. Just follow that recipe as-is, I think you’ll enjoy it!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    LaLa Ortiz
    April 17, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve always tossed these flowers and leaves into my salads. I love the sweet peppery flavor. I had no idea that they’s make a good pesto.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Kaitlin Barnett
    March 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    How amazing! I can’t eat dairy and don’t like cheese much, can the parmesan be replaced with something or just ommitted?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      March 22, 2017 at 6:57 am

      You can omit the cheese entirely. In essence, you’d be making a nasturtium pistou (which is just nasturtium leaves/flowers, garlic, and olive oil pounded together). The nuts are optional as well but add a nice texture in my opinion.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Walktallpilates
    May 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I made this last year, it was wonderful, and an amazing colour!
    Looks like we’ll be having huge nasturtiums again this summer so I,ll be doing it again. Thankyou! 🙂

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      May 29, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      Enjoy! 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Karina
    January 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    ohhhhh, what a great idea. I love my nasturtium to keep my apple trees happy (and sometimes the chickens) but had no idea what to do with it other than eating it in salad…. brilliant!!!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      January 24, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      This is one of my favorite pestos. I love the peppery flavor compared to a typical (sweeter) basil pesto. Enjoy!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Walktallpilates
      May 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      It is such a good idea isnt it? 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Isis Loran
    February 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I had NO idea you could eat the leaves. I’ve eaten the peppery flowers before, what another exciting way to eat them this year!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    walktallpilates
    November 5, 2013 at 7:05 am

    tried this and it was fantastic, thankyou!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Nancy G
    September 27, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Love this one. I also blend basil and nasturtiums and make batches for the freezer – with or without garlic and cheese. And using all varieties of nuts and seeds. It makes for a great savory breakfast muffin. Nancy

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Rachel
    September 12, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Hi Garden Betty,
    I am a school teacher from beautiful New Zealand and I just wanted to share with you that my children at school have now successfully made – and gobbled up – large quantities of nasturtium pesto from your recipie! Nastutium grow like a weed here too and we have grown them in our school vegetable garden as companion plants.I’m looking forward to pickling the pods at some stage and since we’re growing carrots we’ll be blending a carrot salsa at some stage too! Thanks for your inspiration! Rachel

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Catherine Higgins
    July 31, 2013 at 6:35 am

    excellent. I’ll be making this very soon.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    missy winkworth
    July 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

    i just made a batch of this because my nasturtiums are overthrowing my tomatoes! after i scraped almost all of the pesto out of the blender, i threw in some of last nights leftover chicken. i am currently enjoying a chicken-pesto-lettuce-wrap… and it is delicious! thank you garden betty!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Lydia Ann
    May 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    This sounds great! I am growing tons of Nasturtiums in among my curcurbits (cucumbers, melon, squash, etc.) because I’ve read that they will deter cucumber beetles, so I should have lots flowers and leaves to use! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  • Linda Ly
    Linda Ly
    January 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks Nancy! My nasturtiums grow wild year-round, except for fall, so I’m always harvesting a different part of the plant each season depending on when they’re blooming or seeding. 🙂

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Nancy
    January 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I just discovered your recipe for pesto. How cool is that?? I have nasturtiums that grow wild spring to summer and always felt I wasted them! Now, I have poor mans’ capers and pesto to look forward to! Great blog…love it.
    I live in Costa Mesa, so it is fun to see someone else in CA.
    Nancy
    http://wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jeff Wright
    January 16, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Would never have thought of doing this, thank you!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      January 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Enjoy!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.