Ode to a Radish

organicradishesOf all the foods I've experienced in my quest to eat local Minnesota foods this summer, none has surprised me more than the radish. Oh, I've eaten loads of overwintered parsnips, and was surprised by how sweet they were. I've enjoyed the salty twig taste of fried burdock. I've fallen in love with ramps over and over again - for all 3 weeks we could get them - and when they stopped coming back I felt a pang in my heart, as though jilted by a former lover.

But radishes - I didn't even like radishes until a few weeks ago! And now? Well, now I do. Radishes were one of the few foods I avoided, along with canned green beans (which I still can't do unless they're slathered in mushroom soup), beets (soon to come, I know), and olives (yes, all kinds, I've tried. I really want to like olives, but it's not happening). Now, I find myself pulling colorful young radishes eagerly from our backyard farm, saving the smallest ones for my little girl (she thinks the small ones are less spicy), hoping my wife doesn't mind too much that I'm nosing in on one of her favorite foods. (If she knew I was writing this, she might not be happy.) Several years ago, I shared my love of seafood, so I think she owes me.

watermelon-radishMy like affair with radishes started slowly, with a watermelon radish that the Birchwood Cafe served as part of May's Simple, Good, and Tasty dinner salad. A few weeks later, I ate a few radishes picked fresh from Riverbend Farm during our Minnesota onion planting excursion. The Riverbend Farm radishes were small and spicy, so fresh I was sure I could taste that land they'd grown in. And now we're in full radish growing season, with some springing up from our garden each week, and more coming from our Harmony Valley CSA. Still, we eat them faster than we get them. Others have spoken - and written - of their love for radishes. This excerpt from Peter Foster in the UK Telegraph, entitled "The Beauty of Radishes," feels especially relevant (you can read the whole poem here):

Now I know that radishes (after cress seeds sprinkled on soggy loo paper) are the absolute kindergarten of gardening, but unlike sand-sharks these beauties are edible and as soon as I've finished typing this post will end up thinly sliced into the ham sandwich I'm about to eat for lunch. 

Radishes in my own garden, waiting to be picked by a 4 year old

The kindergarten of gardening! How true. And yet, who cares? Each juicy, spicy bite is full of excitement and wonder. What other vegetable inspires such poetry?

Here's one more, called "Write About a Radish," by Karla Kushkin:

Write about a radish
Too many people write about the moon.
The night is black

The stars are small and high

The clock unwinds its ever-ticking tune

Hills gleam dimly

Distant nighthawks cry.
A radish rises in the waiting sky.

Ah, radish! I'm glad I gave you another try. Posted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.