The first time I ate nasturtium flowers—the orange, red or yellow blooms from a low-lying plant that also has edible stems, leaves, and seeds—I was at the Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island. This celebrated destination restaurant and inn was also home to an extensive on-site garden. The evening we were there, the bright, fragile flowers came atop a salad of greens also grown on that lovely spit of land overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait. We went home from our meal that night with a packet of their nasturtium seeds, the most inexpensive and enduring souvenir from a long-ago trip. Here in Northern Michigan, as in southwestern Canada, the nasturtium plant is an annual, but it produces a large seed that is easy to collect and save for replanting the following spring.
Photo by Dave Weidner
Every summer at about this time, these colorful flowers open and are such a fun reminder of that bucket-list meal. The flowers are slightly spicy, with a welcome floral note. I adorn salads with them, or julienne the flowers and roll them with butter in wax paper to make nasturtium butter. But there’s one thing I started doing with nasturtium flowers more than a decade ago that my friends still request every July—I muddle them in a shaker and mix up spicy margaritas. They add a flavor that’s more subtle than the green pepper kick of a spicy margarita made with jalapeños. Plus, the muddled flowers give the drink a gorgeous pale orange or light pink hue. Be sure to select a silver tequila, clear Cointreau and a pretty glass—all of which will let this natural coloring stand out. Grab a few tubs of nasturtium flowers from the farmers market or, better yet, order some seeds, and I promise your friends will also insist on a cocktail at your place every July. If they don’t, call me.
Nasturtium Margarita Recipe
- 5 nasturtium flowers
- 3 ounces blanco tequila
- 1 1⁄2 ounces Cointreau
- 1 1⁄2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice, plus the spent lime kosher salt
Photo by Dave Weidner
Place ice cubes in a margarita glass to chill it and cover a small plate with kosher salt. In a dry cocktail shaker, muddle 4 of the nasturtium flowers. Add tequila, Cointreau and lime juice to the shaker and fill with ice, shaking the mixture until it is cold. Discard the ice in the glass, run a spent lime wedge around the edge of the glass, and tip the rim into the plate of salt to coat. Strain the contents of the shaker as you pour into the glass, garnish with the remaining nasturtium flower and serve.
Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as restaurant critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.