1. Bring the salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Put the nasturtium seedpods in a half-pint glass jar and pour the boiling brine over them.
3. Cover and let them soak at room temperature for 3 days.
4. Drain the nasturtium seedpods in a fine sieve and return them to the jar.
5. Bring the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and thyme to a boil in a small (1-quart) saucepan.
6. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the seedpods and let cool.
7. Cover the jar and refrigerate for 3 days before using. They'll keep for 6 months in the refrigerator if covered in the vinegar.
Adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld (Scribner 2000). Copyright 2000 by Jerry Traunfeld.
Chef Daniel Patterson makes a strong case against using tongs in the kitchen. "There is nothing that is better suited to toss a salad than your hands," he says.