The cooler days of autumn encourage prolific development of my nasturtium plants, and they are growing like crazy off into the forest. Long vines of round, bright green leaves with orange, golden yellow, and crimson red blossoms decorate the mosses, trunks and spruce needles. The hummingbirds are busy buzzing between the blooms in preparation of their long journey south.
Nasturtiums are one of my favorite plants; an indispensable part of Maine summer. The leaves are edible for salads, adding a spicy bite of flavor, and the blossoms have a spicy, peppery bite with overtones of honey. Mince the flowers to flavor cream cheese or butter, toss them with a salad or use the happy colors to decorate platters.
My friend Jean Ann Pollard makes a delicious, fat-free nasturtium dressing with ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 15 nasturtium flowers and 2 tablespoons of honey all whizzed in the blender. Once the blooms have faded the seed pods can also be pickled and enjoyed like a caper berry.
The recipe for Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves comes from our son-in-law Jesse. On his recent visit from Singapore, the abundance of huge leaves inspired him to create this tasty dish. The filling, similar to one used to stuff grape leaves, offers plenty of creativity for the adventurous cook. Instead of rice, bulgur or quinoa would be appetizing.
Ground meat, pork, lamb or beef provide the protein substance. For vegetarian friends try using a soft cheese, tofu, or more veggies. Like more heat? Chopped hot peppers, or hot, spicy honey will do the trick. Fresh herbs like mint or parsley and perfectly ripe garden tomatoes finish the blend.
We enjoyed our Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves as an appetizer before a boiled lobster dinner, and then again as part of a picnic meal. Although wrapping the leaves is a bit laborious until you have mastered the technique, the filling is easy to prepare and extra freezes quite well.
Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves
- 20 – 25 fresh nasturtium leaves stems trimmed
- ¾ cup vegetable or chicken stock
For the Filling
- 1 cups cooked rice
- 1- tablespoon olive oil or fat
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 cup chopped seeded tomato (may also use canned tomatoes or tomato sauce)
- ½ pound ground beef, lamb or pork
- 1/3 cup toasted chopped nuts (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup chopped nasturtium flowers
- 1-½ tablespoons caper berries drained
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Add the rice to a large mixing bowl.
- Heat the olive oil or fat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, then stir in the garlic and tomato. Cook the tomato for 3 minutes or so, then add the mixture to the rice.
- Return the pan to the heat and cook the meat, stirring. Add the to bowl of rice.
- Stir in the chopped nuts, fresh parsley, nasturtium flowers, caper berries, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large glass or ceramic baking dish.
To stuff the nasturtium leaves:
- Place a nasturtium leaf on a flat work surface, stem side down.
- Add a scoop of filling to the center of the leaf.
- Carefully fold the two sides partially over the filling, then roll tightly toward the top of the leaf.
- Tuck the far edge underneath and place seam side down into baking dish.
- Repeat with the remaining leaves. Pour stock over the leaves and cover the dish tightly. Bake for about 45 minutes, until filling reaches an internal minimum temperature of 155 degrees. Don’t let the rolls dry out as you cook them, spoon hot broth over them if needed.
- Cool and then serve or refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.