Saturday, November 22, 2014

Farm Bulletin: Regarding Black Radish & Storage of Farm Crops

All farmers must use their powers of divination when predicting not only which crops will do well in the coming growing season, but also what market customers will be looking for in the future. Contributor Anthony Boutard has a pretty sterling track record on both counts, as the line that forms at the Ayers Creek Farm stand—even before the bell rings—at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market attests.

Regarding black radish

Around here, we have a hunch that black radish is the kale of the future, one of those dismissed vegetables that will suddenly become a must-have because it is packed with outstanding nutritional qualities. In particular, it is renowned as a liver stimulant, which is why it is favored in northern European countries where the winter diet is rich in pork fat and the denizens imbibe beer generously to warm the gloom of the shortened day.

Crap, that sounds just like Portland.

Shredded black radish salad with vinaigrette.

To prepare it, we shred the root—peel on—with a mandolin and then salt it heavily for a half hour or so. This tempers its wilder, harsh nature and tenderizes the flesh. Rinse the salt off, then dress it as a salad with either lemon juice and olive oil or with a dab of sour cream. Treat it as you would a pickle, a nice morsel on the plate. Today, Sylvia and I had a mixed root salad with black radish, knob celery and carrots to accompany our purgatorio bean soup.

Adds a peppery crunch to pizza, too.

My father grew black radish and had a special German tool that sliced the root paper thin. He would salt the slices as an accompaniment with beer, and as kids we loved their sharp flavor even before attaining drinking age. I have not travelled in Germany during black radish season, but he told us that the taverns always served these radishes to keep beer steins empty, and to keep the livers working well. A healthy symmetry.

Some people cook them, but that is, for the moment, beyond my ken. Maybe we can get Linda to figure that out.

A Note on Storage

We keep onions, spuds, roots and greens in a cool, shaded, moist location. A breezeway or overhang that catches a bit of rain on a gust is good. A garage is okay if the roots are kept moist. Throw a wet dish cloth or two on top of the roots. Do not let the roots freeze, though—bring them in for the night if gets very cold. Onions, on the other hand, are amazingly resilient. They can freeze hard as a stone and are just fine, thank you.

Our cornmeal is stone-ground from the whole grain, so it is high in perishable oils and provides an irresistible bouquet for pantry pests. The meal is best stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator or freezer.* Glass protects it against odors from other foods. Frikeh lasts longer stored in this manner.

Mature beans and grains do well in a cool, dark place, not damp, but not very dry either. The cellar or garage is not a bad location, provided it is protected from rodents. It is not necessary nor do we recommend refrigerating or freezing them. Cayennes can be stored in the same manner. We deseed and remove the membrane from some and keep them in a mason jar in the kitchen, grinding them as needed.

Whole squash and sweet potatoes are organs of tropical plants, and die if kept in a cold place. They will last upwards of a year on the counter in the kitchen. Keep them at 60°F (15°C) or above. Both organs reach their peak quality in December and January. Do not bother trying this with Brand X sweet potatoes as they may have been put in cold storage and thus are physiologically dead already. Ours are treated with kid gloves because we propagate the new crop from them. We don't even put those we plan to sell into the van until we are ready to leave for Hillsdale, lest they get chilled overnight.

Sliced squash will hold a few days in the fridge. Otherwise, cook it and freeze the puree until needed.

Preserves unopened last well nigh forever in a cool dark location. Once opened, into the refrigerator they go.

*  I simply throw the zip-lock bags in the freezer, or package several together in a large gallon bag. - KB

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