I’m a huge advocate of gardening.
Oh, I don’t mean being all serious about it, plowing most of your backyard up, and then devoting your life to eradicating weeds and tomato worms. There’s no fun in that! But, even on a smaller, more realistic scale, gardening is fun, good for us, and allows us to enjoy things that we would normally have to do without.
Almost everyone can enjoy gardening on some scale, be it a pot of herbs on a sunny windowsill or container on the patio or a flower bed flanking your sidewalk.
Yeah, I said flower bed. You’d be surprised at exactly how decorative edible things really are. It’s also not too difficult to “hide” something among your flowers if it’s not-so-pretty, like tomatoes. Herbs, one of the most expensive per-pound items we buy in the store, when we can get fresh ones, are one of the more decorative plants, offering a variety of textures, shapes, and sometimes even flowers to blend in with your geraniums, mums, marigolds, and zinnias. Just do a bit of reading on “edible landscaping” to discover what kinds of things other people have done!
This time of year, along the Gulf Coast, the weather is glorious, and this year has been mild and friendly to us hot house variety humans, with very little truly miserable weather. It’s nice to be outside, and it its a good time to get a head start on gardening too. While many of the warm weather loving plants are just not ready to be put into the garden, there are a number of cool weather ones that this season is perfect for, and while seeds may be economical to buy, many of us are impatient for them to begin to grow.
Radishes love cool weather, and unlike most cool weather plants, they sprout in just a few days, providing the closest thing to instant gratification we can find in our gardening life. Because they are so easy and fast to grow (most harvest in just 4 weeks or less) I became curious about what they were good for besides serving in a vegetable tray or in a salad.
Wow, was I surprised!
It turns out that they can be cooked in a variety of ways, from boiling to stir fries to baking to roasting. They can also be pickled.
Now that caught my eye. I love pickles, and good pickles aren’t cheap. In addition, there are limited versions of pickles available in most grocery stores, far less than the ones I grew up eating. My mom used to pickle all sorts of things, most of which were destined for the elaborate relish trays that accompanied every holiday meal of my childhood.
Pickling is also relatively easy, even for a novice at home canning. Because of the high acid content of the food (vinegar!) it can be canned in a water bath canner. Basically, that is just a rack in a pan deep enough to hold the jars of food and cover them with about an inch of water. After canning, they generally keep a full year on a pantry shelf, sheltered from extreme temperatures and sunlight.
There are as many pickles as there are pickle-makers, it seems. I have an entire cookbook devoted to the art of pickling on my shelf. That book doesn’t have every kind of pickle there is to make, either.
On researching radish pickles, it is claimed that they smell a lot like old socks, although they taste delicious and once one eats them, you forget or fail to notice the aroma. I’m not sure about that. How does anybody forget that what they are eating stinks to high heaven?
In the meantime, my radishes are working on the concept of true leaves as they emerge from the shell of their seed. It will be a few weeks before we’re eating them, let alone have any left for pickling. Do I really want to try something that smells like old socks though?