Monday, November 12, 2018

Getting Radicle

Watermelon radishes pulled the day before the low hit 10 degrees.

Not exactly at the top of the list of everyone's favorite vegetables.

But don't we all grow them anyway?
They're one of the first vegetables we can plant in the spring, and one of the last we can plant in the fall. They grow quickly and readily -- practically foolproof -- making them a great thing for a kid's garden or any first time gardener.

You can slice them into salads, use slices of large ones to dip out guacamole, carve them into roses as cute little garnishes, and... uh... and... Well you can eat them raw as a spicy snack.

Oh. come on. Can't you come up with anything else?

Radishes provide numerous nutrients -- vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. And they help support the body's detoxification system, so eating radishes can help clear out the toxins you've built up from all of the not-so-good-for-you stuff you've been eating. They are especially good at removing bilirubin from the blood, which is the stuff that builds up when you get jaundice. So I'm presuming they're helpful in keeping your liver healthy.

Like you, I always grow radishes... for salads. I'm not so much into carving radish garnishes. However, in Oaxaca, Mexico, Dec. 23 is Noche de Rabanos -- Night of Radishes, when everyone gets into the act of carving great displays out of radishes. This began more than 120 years ago, when merchants carved radishes as part of their magnificent vegetable displays to attract shoppers on their way home from Christmas services. Now it's tradition.

But carving isn't the only thing you can do with radishes. Why not roast them?
Because you never thought of that... right?

Well I didn't either until recently when someone mentioned roasting radishes, or I read about it somewhere online. Anyway, I tried it and love roasted radishes. It's so easy, too. Just slice, or halve, or quarter the radishes (depending on their size), toss them with a high quality oil -- I recommend avocado oil or good quality extra virgin olive oil. Lay them out in a single layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle on salt and pepper (you can sprinkle on other seasonings if you like), and roast at 400 degrees for about a half hour, or a few minutes more, turning or stirring halfway through. They're great warm or cold. Make a big batch and heat them up in the toaster oven.

I'll be roasting most of my radishes from now on. Now I am glad that I had such a bumper crop of radishes this fall.

Radishes can be found in many colors and shapes -- red, pink, purple, white, multi-colored, small round, big round, long ones and really long ones. Spring radishes tend to be smaller and mature more quickly. Winter radishes tend to be larger and take just a little longer to mature, although you can harvest them at a "baby" size.

On the left you can see why they're called "Watermelon" radishes, also "Red
Meat" radishes; because of the pink-red centers, the white exterior rings and
green skin. On the right are Cherry Belles, maybe some Crimson Giants.
These are about to be roasted!
I usually grow Cherry Belle, a spring radish, in both spring and fall. Supposedly that's the variety you're most likely to find in the grocery, but mine always carry so much more heat than those I've bought at the store. But roasting -- or cooking them some other way, such as in a stir-fry -- dampens the heat. I also grow Watermelon radishes (a winter radish). They don't reach the size of watermelons, but they do get pretty big. Some sources say that they can reach the sized of a softball -- never seen one that big, but I've seen some slices from some pretty big ones on restaurant plates. I don't think any of mine have quite hit the tennis ball size, but they've gotten much bigger than ping pong balls. I should thin them more diligently. A bit wider spacing would get me bigger radishes.

I also grow daikons -- great big, long, white radishes that you plant in the fall. One year I tried a spring planting and they just kept bolting instead of enlarging their roots.

The green leaves of radishes are edible, as well. I've never been that fond of radish greens, or maybe it's just that I have so many other types of greens available when the radish greens are large and lush, so I've never bothered with them much. But today a sauteed some green onions in ghee (clarified butter), added the chopped radish greens, along with some turnip greens and radicchio, then sprinkled on salt and pepper. When the greens were cooked I added lime juice. Now I wish I'd saved more radish and turnip greens. Maybe the daikons will come through this bitter cold to provide more fresh greens.

Radishes do best in moderately rich soil, with sufficient moisture, and cool weather.

The word "radish" comes from the Latin "radix," meaning "root." So radish is just another word for root. Go figure. Radishes are a prime example of a tap root. Another word derived from radix is "radicle" (no, I didn't misspell "radical" in the title), the first tiny root that emerges from a seed.

This is a great time of year to pick up lots of roots, from radishes to rutabagas, turnips and sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots, even celeriac, burdock, etc. It's a good time of year to get to the root of things.


southcedar said...

Sandra, I just reread your recent column about microgreens, in preparation for my own adventure in growing microgreens this winter. Well, I read far enough through to learn that you have a blog. I had no idea, and I am so excited to learn this. I will follow you, you can be sure. I will also browse through eight years of blogs I have missed!! For so long I have believed you should publish a compilation of your columns. Blogging is a great step in that direction. (Henriette over at Mayetta)

Sandra M. Siebert said...

It's lovely to hear from you, Henriette. Thank you for your kind words.