How are you at cultivating weeds? Excellent, then you will have little trouble enjoying a thriving horticultural relationship with the nasturtium.
A simple matter of pressing a handful of seeds into less than average soil and applying a generous spray of water will in very little time, result in the appearance of tiny rounded pumpkin-esque leaves. These tender beginnings will only continue to develop into greater wandering vines seeking optimum aspect to settle for bud burst. Turn your attention to matters of the indoors for several days only to be pleasantly surprised, on the unplanned day you chance to pass this patch once more, now lavish and beaming with the rusty orange and golden yellow jewels this secretive perennial has been longing to astonish you with. And astonish you it will.
Let not the display remain outdoors, but gather small handfuls of the gems to be spaced with sprigs of generic winter garden greenery, filling orphaned milk jugs to brighten the bleakness. Interestingly, well after the pricey bunch of hot-housed tulips have dropped their heads, with a swift freshening of the supporting green, the little nasturtium posy shines on.
For me, nasturtium fondness traces back awhile. Back in fact to the base of a mission-brown stained paling fence with a northerly aspect, flanked by a thickness of orange blooms set off by the vivid green. This is the visual I have of the dividing line distinguishing the boundary between my childhood home and the neighbourhood path. With the fence and the home a distant memory, it was therefore without hesitation, when I saw this artwork in our local gallery that I purchased a print. Complete with cabbage moth, who shares an equal affection for the plant, this print provides a restful scene to reflect upon before the bedside lamp clicks off, punctuating the end of another day.
Postscript: Is it too late to add, that both leaves and blooms are wonderful additions to simple tomato, cucumber and lettuce salads? (once you have trained the uninitiated palettes into the ‘appreciation of the peppery’ of course)
To have the privilege, be the silent observer of life unfolding in its most rudimentary form, has great impact on the psyche of the young. To know the grain will become the tree, plants the seed of understanding regarding our own place on this terra firma. And holding this belief, I have enormous gratitude for my mother, who in recent weeks, arranged a sprouter for the youngest in our family, so he too could make this cognitive connection for himself.
Seed sprouters have certainly made significant leaps since my early days. Ours, being ice-cream lids or saucers lined with damp cotton wool, played the role of propagators to handfuls of wheat. Every kindergarten nature table in the 1970’s displayed them proudly. The sprouting science did not stop there, but continued on into early high school. ‘Controlled experiments’ were devised to prove hypotheses around photosynthesis – one poor saucer being sentenced to a darkened cupboard whilst the other basked on the sill. After a short space of time it became abundantly clear to us all, as we extracted the yellowed, wispy lifeless growth from the pitch, that plants do indeed require sunlight to thrive. Basic conversion of light to energy – simple chemistry.
If you believe that your grasp (and that of your progeny) of your collective place in the scheme of things is quite sound, rendering a seed propagator superfluous, then there’s more to be learnt. Once their educational role has been performed, these lovely shoots will become nutritious accompaniments to your sandwiches, salads and stir fries. Think alfalfa, radish and broccoli (below) for your sandwiches, adzuki beans, mung beans and lentils for your salads and chick peas and soya beans for extra protein in your next stir fry. Who knew that simple germination could yield such results?
Postscript: and for the Breaking Bad fans amongst us, in the words of Walter White: always respect the chemistry.
A freshly gathered bunch of herbs exudes every bit as much beauty as a posy of its floral relatives.
Aside from their culinary use, herbal cuttings serve as sturdy backdrops for floral arrangements – and providing the water is replenished, do so with incredible staying power. Their robust nature and depth of colour gives the floral heads prominance and easy positioning. Simple flowers such as nasturtiums, lavender and daisies are offset beautifully by rosemary and parsley. Dahlias and mint are another prime example:
A collection of cuttings in the kitchen is refreshing to the eye and can be snipped at as recipes across the week call for sprigs, bunches and garnishes. Case in point, this week we were the fortunate recipients of a lovely fresh snapper, reeled in by a fishing acquaintance. After scoring the skin, we massaged the catch with olive oil and sea salt. The final rub down was a herbal concoction made in the pestle and mortar – oregano and thyme with a splash of olive oil to bind.
The fragrantly coated fish was then securely wrapped in foil and baked in a 180 degrees celsius oven for 45 minutes. The result, a lovely succulent fish served with a feta and olive salad. This is not a difficult exercise and if you have a good local fishmonger, you can have a nice fish feast on your table requiring little more that 10 minutes preparation plus cooking time (make the salad while it bakes).
Postscript: There is a combination of five different herbs pictured above – can you identify them all? Clue – see tags…