Eating with the Seasons: Be Inspired to ExperimentJun 01, 2014 11:57PM ● By Analiese Paik
When you stop to think about it, most of us eat the same ten vegetables over and over again. Spring presents us with a bounty of locally-grown vegetables and herbs, the perfect means to get inspired and climb out of a vegetable rut. Freshly harvested, peak-of-flavor produce awaits at farm stands and farmers’ markets, beckoning us to add some flavor diversity to our diets.
Young, tender radishes, just pulled from the warm earth, sport gorgeous green tops that are entirely edible. Chop them raw to add to salads, sauté them in garlic and olive oil, or make a spring tonic of radish greens and spring garlic soup for a new flavor sensation (see recipe). Spring garlic (see photo) is young garlic that has not yet formed a bulb, and therefore is milder in taste than mature garlic. It looks like a cross between a scallion and a leek, and all three are members of the allium family of foods known for their excellent health benefits.
Embracing whole vegetable eating helps us to get more for our money, reduce food waste, and widen our culinary horizons. Radishes and spring garlic are entirely edible, from root to tip. In fact, a surprising number of vegetable parts we commonly throw away are not only edible, but delicious and easy to prepare. We forgot this wisdom as the distance between us and the source of our food grew too wide. When in doubt about whether a plant part is edible, ask the farmer who grew it. Poisonous parts are typically removed – think rhubarb and parsnip tops – but carrot tops are not and may contain toxins.
Chances are good you won’t find spring garlic, or garlic scapes, at the supermarket. Garlic scapes are only available for a few fleeting weeks at farms stands and farmers’ markets in June; it’s a mistake to pass them over. The scape is the flowering stalk of hard neck garlic that is harvested while young, curled and flexible so it is still tender. Farmers trim them off to direct all the plant’s energy towards growing a big fat bulb underground. Avoid scapes that have straightened; by that time they are tough and inedible. Garlic scapes taste like garlic, but are much milder and add a unique flavor to stir fries, eggs and soups. Try making garlic scape pesto in the food processor by substituting them for basil in a traditional pesto genovese recipe. Bursting with the flavor of spring, the pesto is delicious and refreshing spread on some good artisan bread or tossed with pasta.
Visit a farm stand or farmers’ market soon and get inspired to cook a new vegetable or two. Buy a bunch of radishes with their greens, preferably organic, and some spring garlic, then quickly transform them into a delicious and satisfying soup. The radish bulbs are sliced as a topping or can be cooked as a side dish for another meal. On a really hot day, try a radish with butter and salt sandwich; it’s a classic.
Analiese Paik is the founder and editor of FairfieldGreenFoodGuide.com and beginning this month joins Natural Awakenings Fairfield County as Food Editor.
Radish Greens Soup with Spring Garlic
Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
• Greens and stems from one large bunch of farm-fresh radishes (entirely edible)
• 3-4 spring garlic (entirely edible)
• 1 onion
• 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper
1. Remove the radish bulbs where they meet the stems using a knife or pair of kitchen scissors. Discard any brown or damaged leaves. Wash the greens in several changes of water, then rough chop to 2-inch lengths. Reserve.
2. Wash, trim and quarter radish bulbs for cooking or slice for a salad or soup topping. Set aside or refrigerate for another day.
3. On a cutting board, trim root end and tough tips of green leaves from spring garlic, then wash well. Return to clean cutting board and rough slice white, light green and any tender dark green parts. Reserve.
4. On a cutting board, peel and halve the onion lengthwise and cut half the onion into ¼ inch slices.
5. Heat olive oil over medium setting in a medium saucepan, add onion slices and spring garlic (if using), then cover to sweat with a sprinkling of salt.
6. When vegetables have turned translucent, after 3-4 minutes, add two cups of vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
7. Add coarsely chopped radish greens, lower heat and simmer until tender, about ten minutes.
8. Puree soup until smooth with an immersion blender. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with sour cream and a few radish slices.