Wednesday, 23 January 2008


My new bible is the book "Oriental Vegetables - The Complete Guide for The Gardening Cook" by Joy Larkcom.

Together with "Community Gardens" they are introducing me to different uses for the plants we all know. The radish is one of these and, although my father ate little red radishes dipped in salt every day, I could never understand why. I put it down to the fact that his taste buds must be dead because he also loved bread with tomato sauce and never had a glass of beer without a pickled onion ! And that was a lot of pickled onions eaten annually - I think that single-handedly he kept the local pickling company "Spring Gully" in business! I am diverging...

I have daikon coming up again all over my garden - all year round it germinates and grows and for a few months I have cursed the day I sowed those first seeds and allowed some of them to go to seed. But I now know more about daikon and radishes in general. In short, all their parts can be eaten, and are in many parts of Asia. In fact it is the most widely grown vegetable in Japan where the leaves, stems, seed-pods and seedlings are all used, raw, cooked and pickled.
In Japan punnets of radish seedlings are available in shops much like the cress we see in the supermarkets.You can eat the whole thing, like sprouts too.The young true leaves are gorgeous in salads and I have been picking a few daily and eating them as I go about my gardening but you need to get them young before they get hairy! Larger leaves should be cooked. I now can't wait for more to come up. There are hairless varieties and I will look out for them - 'China Rose', '40 days', 'Hong vit', 'Todo', 'Sangria'. Some of these are pink stemmed which would be nice too.

The immature seed-pods of the radish are picked while still green and are able to be easily snapped in half. They evidently have a wonderful texture and flavour, varying from mild to hot, as you would expect. Joy Larkhom says they are great raw or in stir fries and that people who don't like radishes often love the seed pods. This sounds like it would worth trying to me. Varieties best chosen for eating the pods are 'Rat's Tail Radish' (which has no large root at all) and 'Munchen Bier' (a German radish that has a huge crop of pods) but any part of any radish can be eaten.

Radishes germinate and grow very fast so they can be sown between other vegetables which have been spaced to accommodate their larger, mature size, such as broccoli. This you would do in early autumn, I would suggest. In summer they can be sown in the shade or sown in foam boxes so its easy to keep a watch on them, if you want to try eating the leaves or even just the sprouts.

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