Humble radish earns star billing

By June 28, 2016Fresh@Home
By Denise Miller / For the Journal
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2016

 

Seth Matlick, owner of Vida Verde Farms, pours caramelized butter over cooked radishes. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Seth Matlick, owner of Vida Verde Farms, pours caramelized butter over cooked radishes. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about eating food that has just come out of the ground is that everything tastes spectacular.

Enter Seth Matlick’s radishes. Who knew that the unassuming radish could be the star of an entire early summer lunch spread?

Clearly Matlick does, and so after visiting one of his Albuquerque fields where more than 300 types of vegetables and herbs are lovingly grown, he picked and prepared several varieties that made even this skeptic receptive to the wonders of the humble radish.

“I’m even surprised sometimes that there is such a scale of flavor in radishes and such difference between varieties,” says Matlick, while he roasted, dipped and pulled out his recently pickled radishes in his home kitchen.

Cultivated by Egyptian pyramid builders and eaten for breakfast by American settlers, the radish has been around forever. They were prescribed by physicians to prevent scurvy, are used in traditional Chinese medicine to invigorate patients with low energy, and have been salted or pickled to accompany food and drink throughout recorded time.

Radishes are valued for their distinctive flavor and crunchy texture. Every part of the radish is edible (see Matlick’s use of greens and radish tops in his Brown Butter Caramelized Radishes and Greens with Radish Top Salsa Verde) and each part is packed with nutrition, from the root to the flower.

There are countless types of radishes, and they can be spicy or mild, round or oblong, big or small, available in colors ranging from reddish-purple to rosy pink, black, pure white or even green.

Some of the varieties that Matlick grows include:

• Daikon Long White: Daikon are huge radishes that can reach lengths of 18 inches, measuring 3 inches in diameter.

• Easter Egg: A mix of many round varieties of different colors that all mature and grow around the same rate.

• Green Meat: This sweet, crispy, green flesh radish can vary from mild to hot. It is all green, both inside and out.

• Red Meat: Also known as Beauty Heart and Watermelon Radish, this unique round variety has white skin with green shoulders. When sliced open, the sweet and juicy flesh is a pink-red color.

• Rat Tail: They look like their namesake, and you eat the seedpods, not the roots. They have a bright, delicious mustard flavor.

• Pink Icicle, or Shunkyo: Shaped like a carrot and surprisingly electric pink in color, its signature flavor is hot and sweet flavor. Try this radish raw on its own, or slice and toss in sesame oil.

The variety of radishes at just one farm highlights a superpower of locally grown food: Every farmer chooses what to grow based on their personal taste, interests, soil and microclimate and zeitgeist for experimentation and risk.

Matlick’s route to farming in Albuquerque took him from college in Vermont to a stint in Israel and Costa Rica to a farm internship at Los Poblanos where he discovered he loved the city and farming. Now this 32-year-old farmer, who grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City, is hooked on both.

Matlick’s enthusiasm in the field is matched by his energy in the kitchen. “I was cooking before I was growing,” he says. But another reason he is comfortable multitasking in the kitchen is because working in restaurants during the winter has been key to his ability to survive into his eighth season as a self-employed farmer.

This has both informed his cooking and provided him with important insight into how to supply chefs with his fresh produce.

“I know how busy they are, what they want and how they like the vegetables packed,” Matlick says. “Sometimes chefs even come out to the farms, or we help them out with emergency deliveries when they are in pinch.”

Fortunately for Matlick, developing these special relationships has been easier because his five leased fields totaling five acres are within the city of Albuquerque, making for short driving distances and delivery times. His newest field is in Tijeras where he recently started planting two acres of winter squash and pumpkins.

In addition to his twice-weekly deliveries to restaurants, Matlick brings his voluminous vegetables to the Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market, serves 25 customers through special arrangements and sells to three Albuquerque La Montañita Coop locations.

Beyond radishes, before it gets too hot out, check out Vida Verde’s selection of rainbow carrots, beets, kohlrabi, pea shoots, bok choy, Napa cabbage, turnips, spring onions, chard, kale, fennel, early green beans and more. Then as the summer progresses, watch the selection of produce change. Come fall, many of your favorite spring and early summer crops like radishes will be back for a second round.

Matlick and his wife, Candolin, who often accompanies him to the growers’ market, are happy to help customers learn how to prepare new foods or prepare old favorites in new ways. This winter Matlick hopes to skip his annual restaurant-cooking gig with the help of income from two large hoop houses he will be erecting later this season. That means more farming time and more fresh food for the Albuquerque area all year around.

Denise Miller is executive director of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association in Santa Fe. She writes “My Farmer’s Kitchen,” a column about New Mexico farmers and cooking with them. Visit www.farmersmarketsnm.org.

www.farmersmarketsnm.org

RADISHES DIPPED IN TEMPERED BUTTER

1 bunch radishes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pink sea salt, to taste

Wash radishes and their greens gently and trim off any long root tips. Pluck off and discard any yellow or damaged leaves. Dry, bag and refrigerate radishes until ready to use.

Temper butter over medium heat. Use a double boiler to heat butter, whisking occasionally. The butter should have a consistency of melted chocolate. If too thin let cool slightly until it thickens to the desired consistency.

Remove the radishes from the refrigerator. Dip the bottom half of radishes in the butter and shake off any excess. Place radishes on a sheet tray or plate lined with some wax paper. Chill until butter sets (about 5 to 10 minutes) and then dip a second time (you probably need to reheat the butter).

Sprinkle generously with coarse pink sea salt and chill until butter has set. Enjoy cold right out of the fridge.

Caramelized radishes and their greens. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Caramelized radishes and their greens. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

BROWN BUTTER CARAMELIZED RADISHES AND GREENS WITH RADISH TOP SALSA VERDE

2 bunches radishes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

Radish top salsa verde (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place sheet tray or baking dish lined with wax paper in oven to get hot. Wash radishes and their greens, separating the two, saving the greens for later.

Chop radishes in half or quarters depending on size and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once oven is hot, remove sheet tray and place radishes on it in a single layer. Bake for 15-18 minutes, turning once, when radishes have browned and softened.

While radishes roast, brown butter in a sauté pan over medium flame, making sure not to burn the butter (butter will foam and then begin to brown). Roughly chop half of the reserved radish greens. When radishes are ready transfer to a bowl and mix in brown butter and raw greens to wilt. Top with salsa verde and enjoy.

RADISH TOP SALSA VERDE

Greens from one bunch of radishes

½ cup flat leaf Italian parsley leaves (you should have about equal amounts radish greens/parsley)

2 salt-packed anchovies or substitute anchovies in oil – blot off extra oil

1 garlic clove, smashed

Zest of half a lemon

½ teaspoon chile flakes

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil (may need more for the right consistency)

Bring a sauce pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. When the water is boiling, add the radish greens all at once. Cook one minute or until wilted and bright green. Immediately plunge in ice water to stop the cooking and set the color.

Add anchovies and garlic in a food processor. Pulse a few times until a paste is made. Add radish greens, parsley, lemon zest, chile flakes and vinegar and pulse so the ingredients are well mixed and evenly chopped up. Add oil through the feed tube until you have the consistency of a pesto. It should be thick, but pourable.

QUICK REFRIGERATOR RADISH PICKLES

For this recipe I made: thinly sliced radish pickles with cider vinegar, coriander, cumin, chile and fenugreek; quartered radish pickles with white vinegar, spring garlic and peppercorns; and matchstick purple daikon and rat tail radish pickles with rice wine vinegar, ginger and cayenne.

1 bunch radishes or 1 large daikon radish

1 cup water

1 cup vinegar (white, cider or rice wine all work well)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

Spices, herbs, and seasonings to taste

Choose spices and herbs described above or create your own combinations.

Bring water and vinegar to a boil. Add salt and sugar and whisk to dissolve. Add spices and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool.

While brine is cooling slice, chop or matchstick radishes. Pack in glass jar leaving an inch at the top of the jar.

Pour brine over radishes and refrigerate several hours to over night. Flavor will intensify with time.

Rattail radishes with greens and tempered butter dipped radishes, bottom, chunky radishes with fresh bread and butter. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Rattail radishes with greens and tempered butter dipped radishes, bottom, chunky radishes with fresh bread and butter. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

RAT TAIL RADISH SALAD

1 handful of rat tail radish pods

Meyer lemon infused olive oil or extra virgin olive oil with lemon zest

White or reguluar balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash radish pods and dress to taste. Eat immediately and enjoy.

– All recipes by Seth Matlick,

Vida Verde Farms, 2016.

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