The First Taste of Summer
By Mark Mulcahy
We eat them in salads, on appetizer plates, or as a snack; the French even eat them on thick slices of hearty bread with a generous spread of butter for breakfast. If you have not tried this you are in for a real treat! And the California version is absolutely delicious as well with a thick spread of creamy Melissa’s organic avocado in place of the butter. And yet, when it comes to produce stand stars, radishes often are overlooked as part of the display color. Think about it how often do you pick up radishes in your weekly shopping? Perhaps that is starting to change, though, as more and more chefs include them in their seasonal menus.
Usually noted as a sign of the beginning of summer, radishes are often the first fresh item of the season since they have a short (3–4 week) cultivation time. Growers may also like working with these little gems because they serve as companion plants for many other species for early season crops. Why? Because they act as a “trap crop” against common garden pests like flea beetles. How do you know if flea beetles have been in the radish patch? The leaves show the signs of little holes, but the root remains healthy and perfectly fine to eat.
When choosing your Melissa’s organic radishes, look for leaves that are crisp and green. No matter the color or variety, your radishes should be hard, solid and smooth without cracks or bruises. If they are soft or spongy, leave them be – they are past their prime.
One of my favorite varieties is the common, bright red-skinned round variety known as the Cherry Belle, which is the one regularly seen supermarkets. Another is the French Breakfast, which can be recognized by its elongated shape and red skin with just a splash of a white at the end. I like it because it is typically slightly milder and doesn’t overpower other vegetables that share its company. White Icicle is a fun variety to play with because they look like a 4″ icicle on your plate, and people have been enjoying them for a long time as they date back to the 16th century. Lots of folks like the Easter Egg bunches, which are a mixed bunch with different skin colors ranging from pink, red, white and even purple – but this is not an actual variety, just a mix of different colored radishes.
All of these smaller radishes are great but lets not forget the larger more robust members of the family such as the Black Spanish with its dark black skin and its spicy flavor or the beautiful watermelon radish with its mildly sweet flavor and deep red flesh covered with a white green tinged skin. Both are fun additions to any summer veggie tray. Thinly sliced and stacked side by side around you hummus bowl they can easily take center stage at any party or picnic table.
Enjoy these summer treats and let your mind wander to all the organic bounty there is to come. Melissa’s is there to take care of everything you need!