Culinary trends: nasturtium

Culinary trends: nasturtium




Since ancient times the use of plants and flowers in cooking has been common and is documented in books and engravings of Roman, Greek, Hindu and even Sumerian cultures. Their use was not only due to aesthetic reasons, since they enhance the presentation of dishes, but also because of their pleasant flavor and aroma, which made different dishes, wines and liquors more attractive.

After a time when their use was rare, the presence of flowers and plants in the cuisine of large restaurants has been consolidated and it is increasingly common to find them as part of an elaborate menu.

The number of edible plants is quite large and includes species with which we are very used to coexist, and because of this, they are the most surprising to us.

One of these plants of our daily life is the nasturtium, whose use is spreading considerably among the chefs of our territory.

Marinated Mackerel with Fresh Spinach Smoothie.
La Capuchina como protagonista en un plato, aportando picor y dulzura con su sabor.

(Photo: spinach and mackerel soup with nasturtium)

The nasturtium has different names: queen’s heel, spur of the gallant, flower of the blood, sores of Christ or cashew and, in botany, Tropaeolum majus or nasturtium. This ornamental plant, originally from America, was introduced in Europe by the Jesuits, from whom it took its name from the monks’ hood, and now grows wild in coastal areas.

Its flowers and leaves have a sweet taste with a spicy touch like pepper or watercress. Nasturtium is used in cooking, flowers, leaves, root and even seeds.

Our chef Ismael Bilbao is one of those who has introduced this versatile plant in his dishes, opting for the use of its leaves in both sweet and savory dishes, and in various forms or states. Thus, he makes use of the whole leaf to crown some of his dishes such as spinach and mackerel soup or the mango, yogurt and chocolate dessert; or “turns it into crystals to add to an oil and pumpkin curd cheesecake with sardine emulsion” as Marta Fernandez points out in her article on nasturtium that you can read in full here.

(Photo: Mango, nasturtium, yogurt and chocolate riff)