After a miserable few days of hay fever, I awoke feeling slightly less stuffy-headed, and the first thing I saw was the nasturtium jungle in the back garden.
This was my first time growing nasturtiums, and in my ignorance I imagined they’d be dainty. For two months they were only small sprouts, then the copious leaves came on, snaking their way around the geraniums, coriander and lettuce, and reaching for the sky, each about the size of my hand. (An aside: my neighbour stopped by to borrow a big wrench for some DIY plumbing (i.e. bashing the tap … which is not a euphemism). She informed me that nasturtium leaves are also edible, not just the flowers. What luck!)
So after days of allergy-induced avoidance of all-things-pollen, I was struck by the beautiful red, orange and gold nasturtiums glowing beneath the jungle of leaves. Emboldened by relative health, I decided to face my fears: we had eggs + we had nasturtiums + I figured I could scrape some last bits of parmesan off the lonely rind in the back of the fridge = nasturtium frittata. WIth a salad of romaine lettuce (some from our veg bag and some a nice customer brought in to the charity where my husband works), some cherry tomatoes and a glass of wine, it promised to be a fun, experimental lunch.
I chopped courgette (aka zucchini), sautéed it in olive oil with spring onions and poured in the eggs whisked with parmesan, sea salt and pepper. Based on a recipe from an old issue of Saveur magazine, I also added a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), which helps it to puff up. I was a bit late picking the flowers, needing to place them on top of the cooking frittata before it cooked too much. So I dashed outside and popped five or six into a bowl, brought it inside, and then saw a tiny black insect crawling up the side of the bowl. Maybe I needed to give the squatters a chance to make their escape before plunging the flowers into hot egg? As I eyed the flowers, a quite large beetle-looking bug scampered up the bowl. I put him and his fellow squatters back in the garden, gently shook each flower, and placed them atop the frittata … if any squatters had decided to lay low and wait it out, they didn’t dampen the taste and surely were a nice source of local, seasonal protein.
It tasted good — not my favourite frittata, but visually appealing.
I topped the meal off with an apple and plum crumble with single cream (for Americans, the issue of cream deserves its own post … stay tuned). I used less sugar in the fruit than usual as my husband likes it tart (the general belief among his family is that, like all Americans, I prefer desserts to be outrageously sweet — I disagree, but it seems an argument I’ll never win). The plums, from our veg bag, were too tart even for my husband to eat raw, so they needed to be cooked.
But a warm, buttery crumble under the hot sun seemed out of place – more suited to autumn or winter.
All in it was fun to let the garden and the seasonal (and very local) veg and fruit inspire me, even if it wasn’t the most delicious meal. As nasturtiums seem so easy to grow, even by me after years of failed gardening attempts here in England, I figure they’rean easy win in terms of making food visually interesting. Though next year I’ll give them a nice big corner of the garden bed and a bit of wall to climb.