Revolutionary radishes May 1, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
Tags: Monticello, radishes, recipes, Thomas Jefferson
Silence Dogood here. It’s spring, and spring means garden-fresh radishes at last! Here at Hawk’s Haven, we love radishes, and we like ‘em hot—when we bite into a radish, we want it to bite back. We also want our radishes to be crisp and crunchy, not rubbery or woody, and nothing is crisper than a freshly pulled radish.
We not only love eating radishes, we love growing them, too. They’re about the easiest crop there is, after onion sets. (See our earlier post, “In praise of onion sets,” for more about them.) Toss the seed on your garden bed, water it in, watch for weeds, and wait for radishes. End of story! Well, maybe not quite the end: You need to thin the radish seedlings when they come up so the ones you leave in the ground have enough room to make nice, fat radishes. But when you pull up the extra seedlings, you can put them (washed, please) in a salad, leaves and all, for a nice, spicy treat.
Radishes are great veggies for kids to grow, too, because they’re easy, they mature quickly (some in as little as 20-30 days from sowing), and they’re cute and colorful. Whether you plant a classic round red radish like ‘Early Scarlet Globe’, a red-and-white bicolor like ‘Sparkler’ or ‘French Breakfast’, a mix of white, pink, rose, and purple like ‘Easter Egg’, or even a yellow radish like ‘Helios’ (or all of the above!), you’ll get an abundant, foolproof crop.
Now it’s recipe time. But first, why did I call this post “Revolutionary radishes”? Well, the Boston Tea Party may be better known, but it was preceded by the “Root Out the Redcoats” incident, when a mob of outraged Bostonians pelted some British soldiers with radishes as they emerged from Sam Adams’s pub after a night of hard drinking and low tipping.
Actually, I just made that up. I really called the post “Revolutionary radishes” because radishes were a favorite crop of Thomas Jefferson’s at his Virginia home, Monticello. In fact, you can buy seed of a radish he actually grew, ‘China Rose’ winter radish, from the shop at Monticello (www.monticello.org); it’s also available from seed companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed (www.RareSeeds.com), which sells seed of many other great radishes, too. The Monticello website notes: “Jefferson preferred the scarlet radish, although his garden included salmon, rose, violet and white types,” and says that he often interplanted radishes and lettuces. If you decide to grow ‘China Rose’, remember that it’s a winter radish, which means you should plant it in late summer rather than spring and harvest it in fall.
Okay, back to the recipe. I’ve already talked about one of our favorite ways to eat radishes, after the French fashion: sliced on buttered rounds of crusty baguette. (Admittedly, unlike the French, we prefer these as appetizers rather than for breakfast.) And our friend Ben and I like to eat them whole with (of course) salt. Even our golden retriever, Molly, loves the ends of the radishes (I’m sure she’d love the entire radish even more, but forget that), and the chickens enjoy the greens. Radishes are a family affair here at Hawk’s Haven!
But you don’t have to just eat radishes whole or sliced. You can also use them to make a luscious dip or spread, a great way to put a bumper crop to good use. We were introduced to this recipe by the farmers at our local CSA, Quiet Creek Farm. Thank you, John and Aimee!
Spring Radish Spread
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (leaves, not seeds)
1-2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained (optional)
1 cup finely chopped or grated radishes
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Serve with crackers, on crusty bread (baguettes, rye, sourdough), with tortilla chips, and/or with veggies like carrot sticks or chips, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, or even freshly sliced cukes for dipping. Makes about 2 cups.
Yum!!! But there’s another way to enjoy radishes, too, and that’s as sprouts (also fun for kids—I guess radishes are just a kid-friendly food). If you can sprout alfalfa seeds, you can sprout radish seeds: soak, drain, repeat. Just make sure you buy seed that’s organically grown and intended for human consumption! God knows what some seed companies may have used to treat their garden seed, but you don’t want to eat it.
Radish sprouts add a nice bit of spice to salads and sandwiches, but there’s another reason to eat them, too: They’re powerhouses of vitamins and other nutrients. Radish sprouts have, ounce for ounce, more protein than milk, 29 times more vitamin C, and 4 times more vitamin A, as well as 10 times more calcium than a potato. They’re also packed with concentrated phytochemicals that can combat osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, even PMS! So eat your radishes, boys and girls. They’re good for you!
One of our favorite sites for all things sprout is Sproutman (www.sproutman.com). Interestingly, the variety of radish seed that he sells for sprouting is ‘China Rose’, the very same one grown by Thomas Jefferson. I guess Sproutman must just be a revolutionary at heart.
‘Til next time,