Once you go black…(black radish, that is)
I was pushing my kids in the stroller on a mission to nowhere in my neighborhood this week when a sign on a basket of round, dark root veggies that looked like beets made me do a double-take, because the sign said, “Ontario Black Radishes.” Now you have to admit that anything black that you can eat is kind of interesting. I’ve had black pasta coloured with squid ink that didn’t taste incredibly different from regular pasta, but that looked fantastically dramatic. When I was a kid, I also had black licorice ice cream, which was different enough to draw stares, although maybe those were because of the resultant smiling black teeth. So when I saw a basket of giant black radishes, I knew a few needed to come home with me.
Here is my daughter holding two of them:
And here is one all by its lonesome:
I did some reading about them, and discovered that they are typically found in winter, and also that they are stronger than a regular radish, so many descriptions suggested that I tone them down a bit. I took this advice, which said to wash them, grate them with a coarse grater, and toss them with a liberal dose of kosher salt, which would mellow them out. I left them in their salt on the counter and went to the library.
When I came back an hour later, my husband, never one to mince words, confronted me at the door asking accusingly, “What smells like a bum???” I wouldn’t agree with his description of the smell, thankfully, but the main floor of our house was definitely pungent with an overpowering stinky radish odour. My daughter walked around plugging her nose. I quickly rinsed my concoction to remove the salt and stuck the radish gratings in a ziplock in the fridge, which contained the smell…to the fridge. Every time I opened the fridge door for the rest of the afternoon I was met with more gripes my husband, so I ended up telling him to stop whining, that the stink was about to become his dinner. He prepared to order pizza.
– 450 grams (1 pound) small waxy potatoes
– 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of the knife blade
– 1 medium black radish, about 220 grams (1/2 pound) (when buying, make sure it is firm to the touch, not limp nor soft)
– 2 teaspoons honey vinegar or other mild vinegar (I had to use balsamic)
– 4 teaspoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
– a small bunch of chives, finely snipped (I had to use green onions)
– a few sprigs of parsley, leaves roughly chopped
– the meat from 10 walnuts, crumbled
– sea salt, freshly ground pepper
Overall impression: I tasted the radish before it was salted, and it was spicy and gave me heartburn after only one bite. After the salt treatment it still tasted very radish-like, but in the salad with the walnuts it somehow acquired a very wintry, earthy character. The grated shavings gave perfect textural balance to the creamy flesh of the potatoes in the salad. I liked the black radishes overall, but I would guess that recipes would have to be chosen with care to make sure that such a domineering veggie is treated appropriately. The centres of the radishes I had were very woody, so I stopped grating when it became difficult to do so and threw out the cores.
Nutritional Value: Great nutrients. Supposed to be good for constipation because they’re high in fibre and water, and are also high in vitamin C, B vitamins and sulfur. Contain chemicals which increase the flow of bile, maintaining a healthy gallbladder. Also have an antibacterial effect on digestive flora.
Other Interesting Facts: Main producing countries are China, Japan, Austria, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands. There are Egyptian tomb drawings from 2000BC showing black radishes.
Rating: I’m going to give this recipe 5 yums, the very highest rating possible. Loved it! I would make this salad for company, potluck, and as an alternative to a boring potato side at home.
Bonus info – how to pick a good potato: I’m shocked at how many people are shocked by eating good potatoes at my house even though all I know how to do is pick the best ones. If you have a line-up of white, yellow, and red potatoes at your grocery store like I do, squeeze a few of each type and select from the variety that appears to be the most firm that day. If they have a slightly green tinge, all the better.