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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Black Radishes

I am willing to bet that most of you have never seen a black radish before!

Black Radishes are a historic vegetable. Being a person interested in both history and good food... I decided to grow a big crop of these on our farm this year. Our farm's CSA members will begin receiving black radishes in their weekly shares soon, along with all the other beautiful root vegetables.

When I first dug up a few of these radishes a few weeks ago, I was astonished. First, I determined that I was not going to provide these to our customers. So spicy / hot! Kind of woody / tough! I was disappointed, really, because I had been expecting something closer in taste & texture to the more traditional types of radishes that I grow here on our farm.

However, last week I did some research. It turns out that black radishes are supposed to be woody & tough. They are supposed to be a bit spicy. In fact, I learned that black radishes were historically treated more like a turnip than a radish. These special radishes have been grown for centuries in Europe. They store amazingly well for a really long time! In fact, black radishes were stored in the root cellar along with the other root vegetables (carrots, turnips, rutabaga, beets, etc). The black radishes were known to "keep" the longest, and it was common knowledge that the longer they were stored, the less "spicy" they became. (Note: the "spicy" flavor is more along the lines of horseradish than hot peppers). The other root vegetables were eaten first, and the black radishes kept so long that they were eaten last.

Also, I was surprised to read that black radishes have medicinal qualities! I came across many head cold remedies & recipes in my research, most of which used raw black radishes in combination with other things, like raw honey.

So, to our CSA members, you will be receiving this most unusual radish in your shares for the remaining 6 weeks of our CSA season. You may store them in a plastic bag inside your crisper drawer, just like the instructions for the rest of your root veggies (see last week's CSA email newsletter for all those details).

How to eat? I found lots of recipes! Most ideas were in line with raw eating (slice them very thin since they are tougher than a red radish, and if black skin is really thick on some of them, you may want to peel them). I also saw lots of recipes for them shredded raw (salads, etc). I saw recipes for them stir fried with other vegetables. I saw a lot of recipes for them roasted (roast just as you would
other root vegetables).

On a side note: My husband & I have been reading our oldest son a novel called "Black Radishes". I happened to see the title on the library shelf while doing my research, and was grabbing books for our sons. This novel is about an 11 year old Jewish boy living in France during World War 2. They flee Paris & are living in the rural countryside. In one part of the novel, food is scarce. The family survives for weeks on end eating Black Radishes.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief explanation & a bit of history on black radishes. I hope our CSA members enjoy them!

Update: after posting this, I sat d down & ate the black radish pictured above.  Ohh my goodness, it was not spicy at all (maybe the colder temperatures of fall have toned them down, since the spicy one I harvested a month or two ago.  Read more on how I ate them here: http://all-natural-mama.blogspot.com/2013/10/loving-black-radish.html?m=1 .

What a fun, unique vegetable!  :)

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