This recipe came about on a weekend afternoon as I was puttering around in the garden weeding and thinning out crops that were too closely planted. Radishes were the main culprit. I don’t plant them in rows or in a dedicated space for that matter. Instead, I pop the seeds into gaps here, there, and everywhere. And then I forget where I planted them. Days later I plant some more. Or the squirrels dig them up and shift them too close to other plants. Or, like last year, I allow the crop to go rogue and now, in the spring, I find myself with loads of closely-packed plants.
But this is not a problem, because while the roots may be small, there are handfuls of lush greens that can be wilted, roasted, or fried. This is something I did not understand with my first unsuccessful attempts at growing radishes years ago. While the roots can be tricky if the soil is too dry or shallow, the prickly, hairy greens are very edible when cooked. In fact, they’re delicious!
I went to my local Italian grocer this week and chose seed packs for the contest. I tried to stick with varieties that winners can grow in a variety of conditions whether that’s location/climate, season, small spaces, big spaces, and containers. Some of these can be direct sown and some should be started indoors. Something for everyone!
Italian seed packets tend to be very generous and these are no exception. Each packet contains enough seed to sow a farm or share with several friends.
Below you’ll find write-ups on each variety that I chose. Many of these varieties have become available through companies that sell heirloom seed, but I still find that Spigarello is not commonly available. My local grocer didn’t sell it last year and I was so glad when they listened to my pleas and stocked it again for 2013.
There is still time to enter the contest but you must do so over here. Enjoy!
This spring I started seeds of a long, red, Italian radish variety called ‘Candela di Fuoco.’ They did well enough considering the strange weather that season — I ate the crunchy roots and sautéed the greens.
When two stragglers bolted in the heat, I let them go and ate their flowers. The plants continued to grow all through the summer, forming into wild masses of tentacled branches, bitter leaves, pretty flowers, and seedpods. These too were edible, and we ate them fresh and crunchy straight off of the plant and in salads until they became hard, mature, and unpalatable.
It’s become a tradition and now that I live in an Italian neighbourhood it’s pretty much a requirement. When my local Italian greengrocer set out the seed rack I did a little happy dance, and it was then that I knew I was doomed to buy more seed than I will ever have room to grow.
Cucumber ‘Spuredda Leccese’ – While not technically a cucumber (Cucumis sativa), this Italian melon (Cucumis melo) from the Puglia region (Southern Italy) is eaten like one. I have seed for several Italian cucumber/melon varieties and am quite taken with them. The poorly translated product description was also a selling point. “It has to be harveste the unripe fruit and consumpted in salad.” It’s either going to be awesome in a salad or bring about the consumption — I like the promise of a little risk.
Arugula ‘Selvetica’ aka rucola selvatica (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) – This is my favourite arugula, hands down, and even though I have several packets from other companies, I can’t seem to stop buying it. Just in case! If The Apocalypse comes in 2012 I will not be without.
Onion ‘Tropea Rossa Tonda’ – I am partial to red onion varieties and am more likely to plant them than white. It’s the colour! This one has an interesting shape and matures to red. I’ve long since started my onion seed — these will go in the second sowing. I believe these may be a short day variety so I don’t know what kind of luck I will have with them; however, we have no shortage for scallion usage so I’d be okay if they never reach bulb size.
This year I decided to try two new radishes in my newly built raised beds and have had equal success with both.
The first is ‘Zlata’ a small radish from Poland that is generously described as soft yellow (and often Photoshopped that way in online seed catalogues), but in my opinion turned out something much closer to beige. I didn’t pull any Photoshop trickery with the above image; that’s the colour they’ve been consistently coming up as. The interior is white. Regardless of colour, it is a good mild and crisp radish. It’s doing great with recent heatwaves and drought. My ‘Sparkler’ and ‘French Breakfast’ radishes have run out of steam, but the ‘Zlatas’ seem to be pulling through. I bought mine from Solana Seeds but they seem to be fairly widely available now.
Equally crisp and mild are ‘Pink Punch’ a variety I ordered from Renee’s Garden. Some seeds were sent to me by Renee’s for trial while others were purchased and I can’t recall which category these seeds fall under so I’m making that disclosure in case they weren’t a purchase. ‘Pink Punch’ is a very apt name for this variety as they remind me of my homemade Pink Lemonade. I will definitely grow these again next spring, but for now it is onto ‘Rattail’ radishes as the heat is too high for the regular root kind.
More can be found here about growing radishes as well as growing in containers.