Texas potato salad with nasturtiums DSC5347 1

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

There was once a town in North Texas known as Cathron’s Store. In the late 1800s, a grocery, a grist mill, and a post office could be found in this small Lamar County community, though by 1905 the name had changed to Tigertown and Cathron’s Store was no more. Most people, I reckon, have never heard of this place; it is forgotten. But because of a most unusual potato salad recipe by one of its residents, the town and its legacy continue.

Now, I realize that potato salad may seem an odd subject for contemplation, but Texan-style potato salad—which is typically yellow and tangy with mustard and often mashed to the point where you can’t tell where the potatoes end and the other ingredients begin—is not usually seen outside the state. It’s a unique dish.

Curious as to its beginnings, I began to do research and delved into a collection of recipes from the 1800s to see how it was made in the state’s early days. Most of the potato salad recipes followed a familiar fashion with hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and onions all bringing color and spark to the dish. Surprisingly, mustard was the preferred dressing even then, and while some recipes were prepared with cubed or sliced potatoes, mashed potatoes were used, too. The potato salad that Texans eat today has deep roots.

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums | Homesick Texan

As I was reading, I came across a mashed potato salad by a Texan named Mrs. Lissa Gardner Bowman. She lived in Cathron’s Store. Her version started with leftover potatoes that she mashed and then mixed with the usual suspects. But just when things were becoming predictable, Mrs. Bowman encouraged the cook to go out into the garden and pick some nasturtiums for garnish. Not only was her hometown new to me, but also was her directive to add flowers to one’s potato salad.

Admittedly, I don’t cook with nasturtiums and I certainly don’t have a garden. But I had to try this unique combination so I headed over to the Union Square Greenmarket to see what I could find. My first stop was at the stand of Windfall Farms, a reliable source of squash blossoms, and to my delight they had a whole cooler full of the brightly colored nasturtium blooms. With a bit of a jig and much jubilation, I bought some flowers and rushed home to recreate the dish. A windfall indeed!

In my kitchen, I had the rest of the ingredients, which included cucumber pickles, diced onion, and hard-boiled eggs. (Pickled beets were also recommended, but I demurred as I’m not a fan). The original recipe’s dressing was only vinegar, but I augmented that with some melted butter and mustard, a popular combination found in most other Texas potato salad recipes from the late 1800s.

Since the only flowers I’d tried before were squash blossoms in quesadillas, I had no idea how how nasturtiums would taste. I took a bite of the soft petals, and was surprised at its peppery bite. It was assertive and strong, a sharp edge to the plain potatoes, so I chopped a handful and mixed them into the salad, too.

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums | Homesick Texan

After it all came together, I garnished the salad with more flowers. It was the prettiest potato salad I’d ever seen with a flavor both familiar and new. So, here’s to Cathron’s Store, Mrs. Bowman, and a delicious addition to my side dish repertoire. It’s a joy to have discovered all three.

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5 from 1 vote

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

Servings 6
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from The Journal of Agriculture Cook Book

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup diced dill pickle
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat parsley
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4-6 freshly picked nasturtium blossoms
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes then cut into 2-inch pieces. Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil on high, then turn the heat down to medium and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse and turn off the heat.
  • While still warm, return the potatoes to the pot and add the butter. Mash the potatoes with a masher, leaving a few lumps, then stir the warm potatoes with the butter until the butter is melted. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, mustard, dill pickle, onion, parsley, and eggs.
  • Leaving 2 nasturtium blossoms for garnish, finely chop the remaining blossoms then mix into the salad. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill for 4 hours. Garnish with the remaining whole blossoms before serving.

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26 Comments

  1. stephanie says:

    ps, i did make it that night and it was so delicious! i was a bit heavy handed with the pickles and i should have trusted your judgement on that one, haha. so i will next time. but i still loved it. i was amazed how creamy it was with no mayo. i couldn't tell the difference. i decided that night to just make it "plain" but i really hope i can find the edible flowers at some point because they would be so tasty and pretty.

  2. I'm a 3rd generation Texan; the potato salad we fix has always left the potatoes in nickle-sizes chunks, some of which get broken down in the mixing to bind the salad. Other ingredients are mustard, chopped egg, celery, and smaller amounts of onion, sweet relish, mayo, salt & pepper. Mashed potato salad has always just seemed a little odd-textured to me!

  3. Billie Vanderburg says:

    Fifth generation Texan here and the mustard based mashed potato salad was the only kind of potato salad that I was aware of until I was an adult. My husband and I were invited to a meal where the hostess served mayonnaise coated cooked potato chunks mixed with sweet pickle relish. I asked her what the dish was called and she looked at me like I was “not quite bright”, and told me it was potato salad. She was from the west coast…

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Billie–That’s so funny! While I’ve been known to enjoy a mayo-based potato salad, I do prefer the tang of mustard.

  4. My Mom’s potato salad recipe is similar except for dressing she used Miracle Whip, dry Colman’s mustard, vinegar, and added chopped sweet gherkins instead of sour pickles. She also added a jar of chopped pimentos, and chopped yellow onion and hard boiled eggs. No flowers or parsley, although that does sound good. Everyone raved about it and begged her for more when it disappeared.

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      I like the addition of chopped pimentos!

  5. I don’t use Miracle Whip now, and prefer Hellman’s mayonnaise or making my own, but Miracle Whip is best to use in Mom’s recipe — I tried to change it and it just didn’t have the same taste. She also boiled the potatoes in their skins until they were just cooked through. She said it’s easy to overcook them and if so they get mealy and dry. She cubed the potatoes, no mashing.