Radish, but not as we know it

First radish pods today.

I’ve never been much of a fan of radish (Raphanus sativa). The taste is so-so, you can only use so much of it in a dish due to its hotness and if you take your eye off it for two seconds it becomes hollow, woody and slug-chewed. However, when a friend gave me a few seeds of a variety described as having roots of a ‘uniquely lurid blue’, how could I resist?

The colour, a less-than-lurid brown, was a great disappointment and the plants ended up being left, unharvested, in the ground. As it turned out, that was when the fun started. Being a permanent experimenter, I started trying other parts of the plant. The leaves, fried a few at a time with a little salt, turn into brown crispy things that are so moreish that they rarely make it from the frying pan to the plate before being scoffed.

Radish seed pods are meant to be edible: these ones turned out to be very variable, ranging from woody, hairy, unpleasant tasting things to beautiful , smooth, succulent little vegetables with just enough bite to make them interesting. A few years of pulling up the undesirable ones and letting the others seed have left a strain that is reliably worth picking in quantity and freezing for use in stir fries, stews and pasta sauces. I have read that they are also worth pickling but haven’t tried it yet.

The strain has now found a place in the forest garden as one of the small number of annual species able to sustain itself by self-seeding in a perennial set-up. What has struck me the most about it is how quickly unnatural selection can work in some cases.

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