Nasturtium plants are best known for their intensely bright yellow, orange, and red flowers, but their lush, round leaves are also edible and incredibly delicious. They have a mildly peppery flavour with an aroma reminiscent of mustard. Flowers can be eaten as buds or when in full bloom, but the leaves have the best flavour when young and tender. They also grow everywhere. Chances are, if you have a patch of greenery near your place, you’ll find some there.
Nasturtium is not just a pretty face. Both the leaves and petals of the nasturtium plant are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C. It has the ability to improve the immune system, tackling sore throats, coughs and colds, as well as bacterial and fungal infections. These plants also contain high amounts of manganese, iron, flavonoids and beta carotene.
Studies have shown that the leaves also have antibiotic properties, and suggest that they are the most effective prior to flowering. Nasturtium is used in traditional medicine, treating a wide range of illnesses and conditions, such as hair loss or in cooking, like in these delicious nasturtium summer rolls.
NASTURTIUM SUMMER ROLLS
Quick pickle for veggies
1 tbsp sugar + 1 tsp salt + tbsp rice vinegar 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks 1 mild red chilli, cut into thin slices Half cucumber, cut into matchsticks Finely sliced red cabbage or red peppers (optional)
60g rice vermicelli (soba noodles could work too) 12 x 20cm rice paper rounds 12 nasturtium leaves, unsprayed 24 nasturtium flowers, unsprayed A few big green lettuce leaves (ideally, not iceberg) 3 spring onions, cut into matchsticks A big handful Vietnamese mint A big handful coriander leaves Nuoc cham for serving
Nuoc Cham Makes 3/4 cup
3 tbsp lime juice 2 tbsp sugar ½ cup water 2 ½ tbsp fish sauce 1 small garlic gloved, minced 1 (or 2 if you are brave) finely sliced bird’s eye chilli
1 – First, make the nuoc cham. Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the fish sauce, garlic and chillies. Taste again and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Aim for a bold, forward finish.
2 – Mix the ingredients for the pickling together. Cut the veggies and mix with the picking liquid. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
3 – Pour boiling water over the vermicelli in a small pan or heatproof dish and set aside for 10 mins or until soft. If using the soba, cook as per packet instructions. Run under the cold tap for a few seconds, drain well and toss with the carrot, chilli and cucumber.
4 – And now for the assembling! Dip one rice paper round into a shallow bowl of hot water (not boiling) for 5 seconds, then place on a clean bench.
5 – Place two nasturtium flowers face-down on the lower third of the rice paper. Top with a nasturtium leaf, some noodles and carrot, chilli and cucumber, spring onions, Viet mint and coriander.
6 – Roll up tightly, tucking in the ends, and serve with nuoc cham and lettuce leaves for wrapping. Add cooked prawns for a non-vegetarian version.
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