A Jewel Weed Vinaigrette - Jewel Weed Culinary Uses
What is Jewel Weed?
At Master Indian Spice, we love all manner of seeds, leaves, and roots, and we're always on the lookout for something new and delicious. Well it turns out that one of the most intriguing, and delicately flavoured culinary ingredients might be growing right in your back yard.
It's late summer now, and although the weather is cooler, you still have time to forage for it. Impatiens capensis, or orange jewel weed, also known as spotted touch-me-not, is a plant you may know of from childhood. When touched, the mature seed pods explode, scattering seeds in all directions. While the exploding pods are great fun for kids (and childish adults), what you may not know are that its blossoms and seeds are edible. Not only are they edible, but they are visually quite striking. The blossom is an orange spotted snap-dragon type flower, and the seeds are a gorgeous lime green.
What do Jewel Weed Seeds Taste Like?
They taste quite a lot like walnuts. They are mildly bitter, with a sweet and nutty undertone. Their mild flavour is distinctive and noticeable, and coupled with their striking green colour it makes an inticing wild-foraged ingredient.
How to Harvest Jewel Weed Seeds
It's best to harvest the pods after there has been some still, dry weather. Both rain and wind will cause mature pods to explode. Picking is tricky. If you touch the pod with a knuckle or a fingertip, you will likely lose the seeds, so the best approach to picking is to trap the pod between thumb, index, and middle finger.
We found it is fastest to pick the pods, place them in a bowl, and then separate the seeds from the pieces of sprung pod after you've finished picking.
It took about 10 minutes to get a tablespoon's worth of seeds, although an enterprising forager may be able to scale the harvesting by wrapping the plants in a large mesh bag and gently shaking them. It would be a tricky process, since the shaking could set off pods on other plants but with care it could be done.
Jewel Weed Vinaigrette Recipe
When we tasted jewel weed seeds for the first time, we got very excited that they could be used in cooking. Since their flavour is not assertive, we decided to try them in a mild vinaigrette. We learned a few tips along the journey which we'll share after the recipe.
2 tbsp jewel weed seeds
1 tsp garlic powder or 2 tsp grated or mashed fresh garlic
2 tbsp rice or apple cider vinaigre
1-2 tbsp vegan silk coffee cream (or mayo)
1/2 cup olive oil
1. After harvesting the seeds and sorting them from the pods, place them in a medium mixing bowl, and cover with vinaigre.
2. Add the garlic powder and silk vegan coffee cream (to give the dressing a lighter colour and milder flavour)
3.With a small whisk, mix briskly and slowly pour your 1/2 cup of olive oil into the dressing. Thanks to the garlic, your dressing should combine without much separation.
4. Serve and enjoy.
Other Jewel Weed Culinary Uses and Tips
With no fast method available of removing the seeds from the pods, probably this seed will remain a novelty: a late-summer special ingredient or garnish. Still, the curious colour and the striking walnut flavour makes foraging for them well worth it.
We learned from our own harvesting that the seeds oxidize quickly, like avocado which spoils their appearance somewhat. Their flavour is best when they're still fresh out of the pod. You can prevent the oxidization by putting them in vinaigre or lemon juice, but this can also overwhelm their flavour.
Though we have not tried them in baking, they would fare well in a banana bread as a substitute for the walnut pieces. They would brown in the oven, but that wouldn't stop us from using them in and on top of a banana bread, where their presence would be sure to spark curiosity. It may be that the culinary uses of Jewel Weed are slightly limited, but from now on every July, we'll be making a point of foraging for them and trying them out in new recipes.