A Citrusy, Nasturtium Celebration of Gin

Waterford Naartjies by Cecilia Rosslee

As South Africa eases out of stricter Covid regulations, with the ban  on liquor finally lifted, this last weekend called for a celebratory affair indeed. All the better for the rare occasion of beautiful weather, sun shining and the scent of a slowly emerging Spring in the air. Now as the seasons are shifting, citrus is still champion. And when the sun shines down on a Winter’s day, I can think of nothing better than a late afternoon gin on ice to mellow out and into the sunset soaked sky…

Whether Winter or no, it has to be said, I’m an absolute citrus fiend!  My home is never without lemons, limes, naartjies and grapefruit. Summer time for me means batches and batches of limoncello lovingly made from scratch for Christmas gifts for family and friends… And while, usually, I can think of nothing better when it’s warm out, than a ruby grapefruit gimlet, with a fresh squeeze of lime, fresh grapefruit juice, gin and a sprig of zingy, cooling mint, this last Sunday, seeing the delightful nasturtiums merrily flowering away in my grandmother’s garden, the day called for something different perhaps.

And truly, is there anything more delightful than the bold yellows and oranges of a nasturtium to ward off any and all doom and gloom in these bizarre times?! As a child I loved them in our family garden for their lilly pad like leaves reminded me of a water plant escaped and thriving on land. My grandmother too relayed how, as children, they would savour the leaves on a slice of buttered bread with a little salt as a fine treat indeed! Simpler times, eh?

Beyond this, the nasturtium is a gem in any organic garden and will seldom disappoint! With seeds, and flowers, and leaves all edible, it’s not only a visually appealing addition to any salad, but also rich in nutrients, the leaves being high in iron and vitamin C, while the flowers have the added boost of some of your daily vitamin B’s to add to the mix. As a flavour profile, the leaves have an almost rocket-like peppery kick.

So on this last sunny Sunday, as we had some respite from the most recent cold front, my Nana and I sipped on these delectable and most refreshing cocktails and I do so hope you’ll enjoy the recipe too!

All you will need to do is pick some nasturtium leaves and flowers (or simply the leaves if your plant only has a few flowers you’d rather spare).  You will need this both for the cocktail itself and for the garnish. First wet the rims of your tumblers. The rim coating is a mixture of pink salt and crushed pink peppercorns. (I do so adore pretty in pink!) Green peppercorns would also do nicely for a lovely flavour profile.

Next, gently muddle one nasturtium leaf per cocktail, saving another leaf for the garnish later. With this, muddle two naartjie segments in each tumbler. Then a squeeze of a quarter lemon. I also like to add a zesting of orange and lemon rind, for the added citrusy bittersweet. Top up with some crushed ice and add your tot of gin, or two if you’re anything like me and my love of gin (!). Finally, fill to the brim with a little tonic water or soda.

And that’s it  in a nutshell, folks. Just as nature intended! Salut!!

Click here for 20 of the uses of the nasturtium plant for both the garden and kitchen and home…

Gin Bottles by Martin Taylor 


Featured image: ‘Nasturtiums’ by Sergiy Zayets

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