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Food & Drink

5 Uses for Nasturtiums & A Simple Cookie Recipe

July 20, 2014

5 Uses for NasturtiumsI’ve been a fan of nasturtiums (Tropaeolum minor) ever since we began growing our own food. They make such a colourful addition to the vegetable patch, plus they’re edible and importantly for us as gardeners who choose not to use artificial chemicals, they make great companion plants.

Nasturtium cookie recipeThis year we have more than ever growing in a small area of the polytunnel. When I was sowing seeds this springtime I ran out of compost so rather than wait, I popped several nasturtium seed pods directly into the soil with the intention of replanting them outside once they’d germinated and the risk of frost had passed. I never got around to it and we are now blessed with a glorious display of flowers that are attracting all kinds of pollinating insects inside.

As a result of this unexpected crop, I’ve being doing a bit of research and have not only found several uses for nasturtiums, I also managed to create a quick and simple cookie recipe using their petals as a flavouring. First up, here’s a few uses for nasturtiums if you have them growing in your garden:

5 Uses for NasturtiumsFive Uses for Nasturtiums:

1. Companion planting

Our number one reason for growing them in the vegetable garden, nasturtiums make fantastic companion plants. They’re often referred to as sacrificial plants as insects are so attracted to them. Cabbage white butterflies will often lay their eggs on the leaves and the baby caterpillars hatch, eating the nasturtiums and not your kale or broccoli. Nasturtiums also attract blackfly (that like to feed upon broad bean flowers) but thankfully hoverfly like the nasturtiums colourful petals too and their larvae will feed on the little black aphids.

2. A Source of Vitamins

The fresh leaves of nasturtiums are a good source of iron and vitamin C and because they’re edible can be added to salads, though as in the case of many herbs, should be treated with slight caution – guidelines suggest you should never eat more than 15g of leaves at a time or no more than 30g per day.

3. Beauty Benefits

Folklore suggests that nasturtiums are good for treating hair loss. A ‘tea’ can be made by soaking a cup full of flowers in a jug (litre) of hot water which is allowed to cool, before straining and the ‘tea’ massaged into the scalp before rinsing. It acts as a stimulant which is said to encourage new hair growth.

5 Uses for Nasturtiums4. Floral Gifts

The nasturtium flower carries a significant meaning and according to the anniversary flower list, they are associated with the 40th Wedding Anniversary and carry the meaning conquest, patriotism, victory and impetuous love!

5. Culinary Uses. There are several recipes available using nasturtiums. From a cream cheese dip (100g cream cheese, 2 tblsp chopped nasturtium leaves and three flowers mixed together) to pesto and substitute capers. We made some jars of ‘capers’ last year using the seed pods during the community garden project, selling them at the community garden stall at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival and I can confirm, they were very firey indeed!

If you’d like to try cooking with nasturtiums, here’s a very quick and simple chewable cookie recipe that uses the flowers to spice up the biscuits as opposed to the usual biscuit flavourings of cinnamon or ginger.

Nasturtium Cookie RecipeNasturtium Cookie Recipe

Makes about 25 (more if you make the cookie balls smaller)

Preheat oven to 160ºC, Gas 3, 325°F

125g/4oz golden syrup
75g/3oz butter
50g/2oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon chopped nasturtium flowers
Half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g/8oz self-raising flour

Place all the ingredients except the flour into a saucepan, heat gently and stir until melted and combined.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the flour into the mixture.

Roll the cookie dough into balls about half the size of golf balls and place onto lined and greased baking trays, leaving a space of about five centimeters between each one (if you want perfect cookies or closer if you don’t mind them all joining up as in the photo above) Cook for ten minutes in the pre-heated oven.

Leave on the baking trays for a few minutes to firm up, sprinkling a few shredded nasturtium petals on top. Remove from the trays and leave on wire trays to cool.

Nasturtium Cookie Recipe

If you try making them, I’d love to hear how the cookies went down with everyone. My family tried them with faces full of suspicion which quickly changed to smiles of pleasure!

Do you grow nasturtiums in your garden and use them in the kitchen or had any success with them as companion plants?



Food & Drink

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Recipe

January 29, 2012

chocolate chip cookie barsAs a business owning mum, one of my constant struggles is the emotional guilt of not spending enough quality time with my children.

When they were tiny we made the decision that we would forgo holidays, new cars and lovely treats so that I could stay at home and look after our kids and not paying someone else to do it for us. I did that for ten years but when the youngest of our three finally started school aged five, I loosened the apron strings and signed up for the full-time horticultural course that set me on the road I’m currently on.

With fantastic support from Mr G I studied and experimented, dreamed and talked about plants and jChocolate Chip Cookie Recipeust a month after finishing the course threw myself into starting Greenside Up so that I could share all the knowledge I’d learnt about soil, water, polytunnels, biodiversity and plants, thereby helping newbie gardeners to grow their own veg too.

However, as any self employed, business owner knows – this isn’t a nine to five job. To make a success of it, and particularly when you’re so passionate about what you’re trying to do, it’s a seven-day a week, evenings, early mornings and even middle of the night kind of job. I can’t deny either that I thoroughly enjoy being ‘Dee’ again and not just being “someones mum”, but as a mum, that’s where the emotional struggle begins. How can you have a successful business and be WORLD’S NO 1 MUM?

I wonder do men feel this pull, as Mr G certainly doesn’t feel the same guilt I do at bathrooms not always being clean and floors unwashed…?

The answer, I feel, is that you can’t be everything to everyone and that there’s no such thing as the perfect mum. We all try to do our best. There were no school lessons teaching us how to do it, we weren’t born knowing how to be parents, nobody ever warned us just how difficult it would be, that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to us all. All we have is our own upbringing to guide us and we either try to replicate it if it was a good upbringing, or hopefully improve upon it if it wasn’t.

Before she retired to go on to become a full-time foster-mother, for many years my mum was a business owner too and I now fully understand and appreciate all the sacrifices and guilt she must have felt. (Mum’s now in her mid 70’s and along with my dad is currently looking after three under one year old babies…) I was lucky – mum did her very best and I feel, a fantastic job, guiding and showing us in her actions how to be good human beings. My sister and I grew up to be independent spirits thanks to her amazing example.

Chocolate Chip Cookie RecipeSo how do I do the best that I can for my own children? Well for a start I’d like, and need, to spend quality time with them. I’m having to accept that it’s not going to be every day, or as often as they or I would like. At the beginning of this year I made a firm resolution that I would spend good, quality time with them – not homework or eating meals together time, but one on one time. Children remember things they do and not things they own. My memories are of holidays, swimming lessons or weekly trips to the cash and carry where the four of us would stop off and buy huge piles of fish and chips and pickled gherkins.

For our children and me, our quality time tends to be spent in the kitchen baking. They love to cook, so guiding  and teaching, weighing and tasting is how we’re currently spending most of our quality time. Yesterday we baked tasty little Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from a recipe our youngest had torn out of a magazine. To our surprise the easy recipe worked, the cookies are delicious and I’m sharing it here ….

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


1 cup butter or margarine
½ cup caster sugar
½cup brown sugar
2 large eggs (I used 3 as the mixture looked very dry)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
100 g 70% chocolate broken up (or a cup of chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a baking tray (23cm x 33cm). Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If you don’t have a food processor, cream the first seven ingredients together, then add the remaining.

Spread the mixture in the tin and place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, cut the pieces to size and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with a cup of tea, cream or custard!

love youFor now, when I’m sitting alone at night, when they’re all tucked up in bed and I’m beating myself up from feelings of unbearable guilt that I missed the latest soccer match, haven’t yet taught my eleven year old to knit or am sending them off to a neighbours once again to be looked after, I have to hang on to the fact that as long as my children keep slipping me notes like this one I can’t be doing it that wrong.

If you have children, how do you spend your quality time with them? Do you suffer the same guilt? All tips greatly appreciated please!

Food & Drink

Ten-minute Oat and Raisin Cookie Recipe

November 28, 2011

Ten-minute Oat and Raisin Cookie RecipeThis is a variation of the ten-minute chocolate chip cookie that’s in the River Cottage Everyday cookbook.

We watched Hugh bake these on a recent episode of his excellent River Cottage Veg show. They looked so quick & easy to make (they are) that the girls asked to make them for their lunch boxes this week.

We made a batch of the chocolate ones too but surprisingly the oaty ones are the preferred choice!

The recipe makes 14 – 16 biscuits.  Heat the oven to 190ºC/Gas 5 and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment paper.


125g butter (preferably unsalted)
2 tbsp honey
100g caster sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten
150g plain flour
50g jumbo oats
100g raisins
75g chopped, roasted hazelnuts<
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt


Put both the sugars in a mixing bowl. Melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan and add to the sugars, mixing well. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into the bowl then add the egg and salt, oats, raisins and hazelnuts. The mixture should be fairly sloppy, but hold it’s shape when dolloped onto the baking sheets with a dessert spoon. Ensure you leave enough space between the mixture on the tray to enable them to spread out. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until the cookies turn a pale, golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets for a few minutes to firm up before lifting on to a cooling rack.

If you want to make the chocolate version, leave out the oats, raisins, cinnamon, honey and nuts and just add big chunks (100g) of chocolate and 2 tsp vanilla extract to the mixture.