Sweet potatoes, beets and winter radishes- the cooler weather and shift in crops signals a time to turn the oven back on and dive into delicious fall soups and roasted root vegetables.
Looking way back to April, spring radishes are one of the first things we plant when the ground dries out. French breakfast and red radishes grow fast -as quick as 3 to 4 weeks from seed to maturity. We harvest them pretty small- about the size of a gumball, and their peppery kick is a welcome kick start to our digestion after a long winter. Winter radishes on the other hand are planted beginning of August and take almost twice as long as spring radishes to mature, growing best into the cooler fall weather. To help them reach their full size potential, we thin the plants. The long daikons can reach a length of 12 inches or more, the round globe types grow happily to 3-5 inches around. Sturdy and beautiful, winter radishes are chock full of hardy nutrition.
This week’s CSA harvest had a choice between daikon radish and green meat radish. These are just two of the four varieties of winter radishes we grow here at Blooming Glen Farm.
The daikon radish looks like a giant unicorn horn, and has a mild moist texture. Traditionally used in Japanese cuisine as pickles or in stir-fries, daikon is valued medicinally as a blood and kidney cleanser- it can be combined in a broth with seaweed or in a tea to aid digestion. Two thin slices of pickled daikon is the traditional end to a meal in Japan as it is said to both cleanse the palate and aid in the digestion of the meal.
Grated on a greens mix, watermelon radishes, or rose heart, with their bright pink interiors will jazz up any salad. Appearing more like a turnip at first glance, peeling back the moss colored shoulders reveals a hidden splendor. They are sweetly mild, with a little bit of spice, and thanks to the fun color, the kid friendliest of the group. Though it can be cooked, I prefer it raw so as not to lose that vibrant rose color. It pairs well with the flavors of fennel and apple.
The Spanish black radish has a dull black exterior that hides an irridescent pearly white center. Its hot flavor is tempered by a bitter earthiness, almost as if the radish takes on the terroir of our land. In China and Europe it has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years as a gallbladder tonic and a natural remedy for digestive problems. High in Vitamic C, some people say the pungent spiciness can help ward of colds and flus.
Green meat radish is a type of daikon with a much spicier flavor than its elongated white cousin. Green meats are touted as sweet and mild but I found the ones we are harvesting the most aggressively hot of the bunch.
All these radishes can be enjoyed grated, with the addition of soy sauce and touch of freshly grated ginger, and served with grilled meats or fish, or vegetables, in the style of daikon oroshi, which is simply Japanese for grated radish. Winter radishes are also wonderful roasted with other roots or added to soups.
Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.