I’ve returned from Peru.  My balcony garden looks like it missed me.  The nasturtiums are almost spent.  It is fitting.  They are of Peruvian origins and the holiday is over.  Their fiery colours and flavour remind me of spicy Cuzco.  I chanced upon a festival of dancers while there in Huacaypata – the main square.  They had been wearing vibrant nasturtium hues and their dancing was on fire.  The beautiful Incan faces flashed with smiles interspersed with serious frowns of concentration.  It was as if all the Macaws in South America had descended upon the cobblestones.  Vibrant parrot-threads wove heel and toe in unified splendour.

It was with regret I cast out the frizzled annuals.  Each plant still had a beacon or two, giving its best to the last.  In its glory, the flowers had been the mystery ingredient for an exquisite pesto and the foliage had rolled raindrops about like mercury. Their flaming hearts had reverberated with the thrum of happy bees while the cat had basked in its dappled shade.

In mythology, nasturtiums possess the power of protection.   Folklore says that you will be defended from bothersome visitors if you grow it. If you look at the leaves you will notice they are shield shaped, offering up their guard.  Companion planters know their protective qualities in repelling bugs and will often dot them through the vege patch or orchard.   I grow them not just for their pest repellant qualities or their attraction to beneficial insects.   Round sculptural leaves graced with feisty blooms, just look right growing next to lettuce and rainbow silverbeet.

After the holiday is memory and the nasturtiums are compost, there is still a recipe…

NASTURTIUM PISTACHIO PESTO

150 grams roasted pistachios (shelled)

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds

20 Nasturtium flowers

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves (if your garden grows several varieties, pick a medley of Sweet Basil, Purple Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Basil & Globe Basil)

2 cloves garlic

1 chili

3/4 cup olive oil

sea salt to taste

Roast nuts and seeds.  Place in a pestle and mortar along with basil leaves, garlic, chilli and olive oil.  Pulverise.  Inhale.

Season to taste.  Add the Nasturtiums last.  Bruise and grind them lightly so as their colours are still discernable. Quickly cover with a layer of olive oil if storing for later use.  Keep up to 5 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

Pistachios are shot with glorious plum and verdigris tones.  Together with the purple and green basils there is a delightful nut mimicking leaf act.