Nasturtium Leaf Pesto

Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa, I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar, Into your flaming heart; – See more at:
Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa, I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar, Into your flaming heart; – See more at:

Flame-thrower, Day-Torch, Mauna Loa, I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar, Into your flaming heart.

Anne Spencer from her poem, Lines to a Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are wonderful little plants.

They belong to the genus Tropaeolum, but are commonly known by the name nasturtium. Interestingly, this is the Botanical name for another genus of plants which include watercress. This is because nasturtiums were named by the Europeans who used them like watercress in salad. The word nasturtium literally means “nose twister or nose tweaker.”

Nasturtiums are native to South American, but because of their beauty and tastiness, they have been introduced to gardens all over the world. I lived in Portugal for several months last year and adjacent to the path that I walked everyday, was a huge patch of nasturtiums. I often stooped to pop a flower in my mouth and the spicy flavor would open my sinuses with powerful nose tweaking action.

Both the flowers and the leaves are edible, and they add a delicious and beautiful bite to a salad. I like to float the leaves (which look like baby lily pads) on top of a bowl of soup. They  also can  be made into delicious pesto which this post is of course about.

Pesto is one of my favorite things to make because it is just so versatile. The basic ingredients are leaves, nuts or seeds, oil, garlic, citrus, and salt. A bit of good Parmesan is also a lovely addition. Some of my favorite leaves to use in pesto (aside from nasturtium) are chickweed, cilantro, moringa, arugala, and basil.

Here’s how you  make pesto:

2 cloves garlic (or more as you like it)

Juice and zest of 1 lemon (or more as you like it)

1/2- 1  teaspoon salt

1/2 cup nuts or seeds (toast them for more flavor)

3/4-1 1/2 cup good olive oil (You’ll really be able to taste it so use the good stuff!)

4 cups leaves

Optional: 1/4 fresh grated Parmesan (note Parmesan is salty so you may need a little less salt)

Add everything except the leaves  to a mortar and pestle. Grind  into a paste. Then slowly incorporate leaves. Keep grinding. It will take awhile. Or, for a more speedy method. Put everything in a food processor and whir away. Add more oil for a thinner pesto and more leaves for a thicker pesto.

I’d love to hear your favorite pesto combinations. If you’ve made an interesting pesto, please write about it in the comments section!






Day Lily Frittata

When I was a child in northern Michigan, we would walk almost daily down the road to Interlochen State Park where we would buy 5 cent laffy taffy and other such treats. On our way, we would pass a yard full of day lillies, and we would always pull off a few blossoms and munch on their tender leaves as a preamble to our candy purchases.

It’s been some years since I’ve had a laffy taffy, but just today I ate a few day lily blossoms. They’re a beautiful flower. Big and vibrant. The buds are also delicious, especially sauteed. For this reason, I made them the star of this mid-summer frittata.

Frittata is one of my favorite things to cook because it is so adaptable and so delicious. My friend, Lizzie, taught me to make frittata while we were cooking together at a retreat center for activists.

You can put almost anything in a frittata. I always start by softly sauteing an onion or two and maybe some garlic or leeks. If it’s the main course, I like to add parboiled potatoes or pumpkin or squash to give the frittata some substance.  Then, I add leafy greens: kale, arugala, chard, mizuna, or beet greens are all wonderful additions.  Eggs and sometimes some farm fresh delicious cheese round the dish off and paired with some salad and crusty bread make a truly satisfying meal.

Day Lily Frittata

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, diced

1 small zucchini, cut into half moons

2 cups kale, ripped

Handful of day lily blossoms

6 eggs

Dash of milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Sprinkle fresh herbs. Parley, chives, thyme, oregano, or basil are all good options.

Optional: 1/4 cup of any good cheese.  Chevre or freshly grated Parmesan are always good.

In a 8-10 inch cast iron skillet, saute onions in tablespoon of butter. Salt lightly and cook on low until translucent. Turn the heat up a bit and add zucchini. Cook for 3 minutes and add kale and day lily blossoms. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the eggs. Crack eggs into a bowl, whisk with a tad of milk and a bit of salt and pepper.

Pour egg mixture over vegetables. If using cheese, crumble or grate over the eggs.  If using herbs, sprinkle over eggs. Cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the edges of the frittata begin to set. Then, carefully transfer frittata into the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until the center has set and the frittata is puffed and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cut into large slices. Add a green salad and enjoy.