Gjelina Group Goes to the Market: Mixed Fall/Winter Radish
A breakdown on the beauty that is Weiser Family Farms’ mixed fall/winter radishes.
By Sam Rogers
When you think of a radish, maybe you think of something bitter and spicy but otherwise uninteresting that appears reluctantly in salad. Or the unevenly sliced, deliberately bland ones that come in a sandwich bag with your tacos. Either way, you’re probably thinking of a roughly golf ball-sized radish with a ruby-crimson exterior and translucent white interior.
I deal in radishes, so I imagine them a little differently. I dream of lissome French Breakfast radishes on a charcuterie plate, crisp greens still attached, or on a crudité platter with herbed butter to dip them in. You know, living the good life.
But these are just a few sides of the radish. The ubiquitous “red radish” from the grocery store is the commodity crop. My French breakfast radish is a spring farmers market find, and almost as much an ideal or archetype as a real vegetable. Radishes have another life too — a fall + winter life — and so many more forms!
If you’ve walked by Weiser Family Farms’ stand this season, you may have noticed their many winter radishes, in the colors of bougainvillea and lilac. I’m dropping the word “fall,” we’ll just go with “winter” since it’s the season that really defines them in Southern California. They’re nearly as sweet as spring radishes, but are surely juicer and crunchier. Winter radishes are a cool season crop, preferring soil temperatures below 68°F, but above freezing. Alex Weiser plants the seed after the summer solstice and they take about 45-60 days to mature. Spring radishes grow in almost half the time, since there are more sunlight hours then and the days are growing longer. Unlike their summertime cousins, winter radishes are seldom pithy — that packing peanut/spongy cardboard texture so many summer radishes have from growing quickly and cycling from wet to dry and back so frequently.
Most often radishes are consumed raw, but there are fun ways to cook them as well. They are great for braising, sautéing, and roasting too. The heat from cooking will cut some of that spicy flavor. When pickled, most of these radishes keep their color. Many people toss those greens, but they are perfectly edible! Some radishes have very tender greens that can go into a salad. Others have spiky hairs, but they’re edible too — they’d simply benefit from a little cooking. Try making a radish top pesto with blanched greens. Or perhaps braising the radishes in a cast iron pan with leeks, garlic and broth, then throw those radish greens in at the last moment with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt.
Without further ado — here’s the breakdown on the beauty that is Weiser Farms’ mixed radishes.
The outer skin is pale green to creamy off-white. It’s usually a little green at the top, from the chlorophyll it produced as it poked out of the soil and was exposed to the sun. Inside, the flesh is a bright fuchsia or magenta, appearing in circular striations. Depending on when they’re harvested, watermelon radishes can range in size from ping pong ball to a softball. Its flavor is very mild, only slightly peppery, with sweet notes.
This oval-shaped radish has a gradient from key lime green at the bottom to kiwi green at the top. Of Weiser’s four available this time of year, this radish has the most “heat,” with just a hint of sweetness.
This radish really carries a WOW factor, with a dusty rose exterior and a bright pink interior. In contrast to its intense color, it has the most mild flavor. The texture is dense and firm.
Mini Purple Daikon
With an exterior that’s dark purple and an interior that’s streaked with a ring of purple stripes over an opaque white background, this is purple on purple, radish royalty. The texture is very dense and crisp and juicy. In flavor it’s not as spicy, like a Spanish Black Radish (which Alex also grows at another time of year), as it is like cracked black pepper.