Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Black Spanish Radish
The trouble with most storage root vegetables is that they go into storage in the fall in good condition; crisp fresh and juicy. As time goes by, they begin to show signs of tiredness. Still good, but perhaps not quite what they were to start with. Black radish is the opposite. It goes into storage with a rough, pugnacious character, and people recommend treating it with salt and squeezing out the juice to tame its coarse horseradishy flavour. However, by March it will have naturally mellowed to a smoother radish taste. So why not just wait and eat them in the late winter or early spring? Wow, a new veggie in March; I can handle that!
Pick black radishes that are medium sized, firm and solid. The skin is thin, but has an odd dusty quality and is probably better peeled off. They can be a little tough, and so are generally used grated in salads, or cooked like turnips. They don't have the fresh springy quality of red radishes, but after not having had any radishes for months they make a nice change to salads.
Just to make life complicated, as far as I can tell there are two different black radishes out there. One is simply a black-skinned version of raphanus sativus and is closely related to the more common red and white salad radishes; the other is raphanus sativus niger, and is closely related to daikon, lo bak and other oriental radishes. As such, it can get quite large. The black Spanish radish belongs to the first category, and insofar as any black radishes can be said to be common in North America, this is the one. You can expect these radishes to be about the size of a small white turnip.
In eastern Europe they are highly regarded as a tonic for the liver and gall bladder; like many vegetable remedies they should be eaten only in normal portions. Excessive consumption may in fact be toxic to the liver.