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Nasturtiums, Yum!

October 13, 2023


Fall colors have arrived, but nasturtiums are putting on one last show before cooler weather moves in. These are a favorite annual flower among gardeners and add vibrant color to vegetable gardens as other plants begin to fade. As an added bonus, you can eat them!

Native to South and Central America, with about 80 species to choose from, you’re sure to find a color to suite your garden. They can hold their own in a planting bed or offer a spilling effect in an outdoor planter. It’s October in northeast Ohio and they are currently the star of my garden!

The leaves and flowers are both edible and offer dishes with a peppery accent similar to arugula. They can be used in pesto, infused into vinegar, and added to any dish with a lettuce or greens base.

One of my all time favorite summertime recipes was created by Chef Abra Berens from her first publication Ruffage. This cookbook is versatile because she leaves many doors open for substitutions and using what you have on hand. In this recipe, I’ve used quinoa instead of wild rice, and in a pinch, I’ve even used cottage cheese in place of fresh mozzarella- I mean, when this kale salad craving hits, you’ll find way.

Ruffage A practical guide to vegetables by Abra Berens

Massaged Kale With Tomatoes, Creamed Mozzarella, and Wild Rice

This recipe calls for wild rice but substitute any cooked grain—especially any random grains that are in the back of your fridge. If you do use wild rice, you don’t need to soak the grains overnight, but soaked rice will cook much more quickly and will “pop” when cooked, improving the texture. Unsoaked rice will take significantly longer than white rice to cook, so plan accordingly.

1 small onion, cut into thin slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight in 4 cups water
1 bunch (4 cups) kale, midribs stripped, well dried and cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
1 ball (8 oz) fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup sour cream
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Cooking instructions

  1. Heat a glug of olive oil. Sweat the onion and garlic with the salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the wild rice and the soaking liquid and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the kale with a pinch of salt. Massage the kale until it is dark green, limp, and tender in mouthfeel.
  3. Tear the mozzarella into rough chunks. Combine with the sour cream, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
  4. Toss the tomatoes, kale, and wild rice together with a couple glugs of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Dot with the creamed mozzarella and serve.
  5. When the wild rice is cooked, drain any residual liquid and let cool.

Cooks’ note: The amount of time it takes to tenderize raw greens will vary depending on the age of the plant. The tougher the leaves, the longer it will take. Along the way, taste an individual leaf—once it is easily chewable, you’re done.

Recipe from Ruffage by Abra Berens

Sommer Tolan

Sommer Tolan


Sommer brings her sense of creativity, design and wonder to the Horticulture Team at The Holden Arboretum. Previously, she taught children about organic vegetable gardening with the Chicago Parks District, and designed rooftop gardens and patios with Sprout Home in Chicago. She’s so thrilled to extend her aesthetic of using native plants fused with a modern edge into the Eliot and Linda Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden.

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