The Joy of Discovery with the Throwaway Twins

We gardeners know well that we waste far more food than we use from our garden.  How?  Oh wow – how do I count the ways!  First, we let a good deal of perfectly good food simply sit there in the garden and grow past its prime.  I’d say at least half of my garden’s production falls into this category.  Sometimes we grow stuff we intended to freeze or can or dry – and we just never get to it – or, there was no more room in the freezer.  Seems like everything ripens at exactly the same time too!  And then there are the vegetables I share with the deer and the bugs – that’s waste of a different kind.

The point I’m trying to make is that we gardeners grow a great deal of food that we never get to eat.  And that’s not counting the food we grow and ignore.

Let me give you two great examples – each year I grow garlic, and each spring it sends up what are called, scapes.  Scapes are long, thick stalks with an emerging seed head at the top – and if you cut it off early enough (a week or two after you see it forming a seed head), it is a delightful, mildly garlic flavored and crisply tender stalk of deliciousness.  But if you wait too long (like me, usually), you’ll find a scape that has matured into a woody stick – timing is everything.

Garlic Scapes from my Garden

I’ve known about garlic scapes for years, and for whatever reasons, I seldom seem to remember to pick them at the right time, and once again I miss out on one of the garden’s premier offerings, because I ignored them.

But there’s another category of garden food we toss away because we don’t think it’s good enough to eat.  Things like the tops of beets and turnips get tossed, when actually, they both may be better tasting than the part we willingly eat.  Well, I’ve just discovered another perfectly delicious vegetable that most of us simply throw away – radish leaves!

My Radish Patch

Sounds better if we call them, radish greens – and they are surprisingly delicious.  I seem to remember that when I’ve grown radishes in the past, the top growth was a bit skimpy – but this year I’m growing French Breakfast and Icycle, and the top growth on each is quite significant.  I decided to quickly saute them both in a little oil and after a minute to bathe them in a splash of soy sauce – Delightfully toothsome with just a hint of chewiness – I loved them.

I think each year I seem to love greens just a bit more than the year before.  And it seems like each year, I discover yet another kind of green to try.  The Greek centenarians living in the rural mountain county credit their long life to wild greens which they gather and consume every day.- hey, it can’t hurt, can it?

If you have either of these disrespected members of the garden community growing in your patch –or you come across them in your local farmers’ market- give them a chance to prove themselves.  They’re very flexible, so be creative in your use of them.  Here’s what I did with them.

A Very Quick Saute

Sauteed Radish Greens and Garlic Scapes
(2 servings as a side dish)

Ingredients:
*  3-4 cups of washed and chopped radish greens from about 6 good sized radishes (stalks are tender enough to be included)
*  4-6 garlic scapes, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
*  1 Tbs olive oil
*  1 Tbs soy sauce
*  1 Tbs sake
*  1 Tbs chicken broth or water

Procedure:
Mix all sauce ingredients together and set aside
*  Heat a wok or good sized skillet very hot.
*  Add olive oil, and when shimmering, add the chopped garlic scapes.
*  Stir for about 30-45 seconds.
*  Add the chopped radish greens and stir until all are wilted.
*  Now add the sauce ingredients and stir well to mix sauce with greens for about 30    seconds more.
*  Serve.

Dinner is Served

As always, the above is simply a set of suggestions – use your cooks’ imagination and have a little fun with these worthy ingredients.

Both garlic scapes and radish greens have a limited use life – the scapes because they are only available during a relatively short window of accessibility each year – but there’s no reason why they can’t be picked, blanched, and frozen for later use.  In fact, the big garlic bulbs we gardeners seek will fill out more if the scapes are removed, allowing the plant to concentrate on root production.

The radishes also have a limited life, but only because they grow so rapidly that often they are past their prime by the time we are ready to use them.  And when that happens, the roots begin to suffer before the tops do – so if you find yourself with over-mature radishes in your garden, the greens may be a better use than the roots.  Of course, if you’re smart enough to plant new seed every few weeks or so, you’ll have all the fresh, young radishes you want all summer long – and, I trust, all the greens you can use as well.

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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10 Responses to The Joy of Discovery with the Throwaway Twins

  1. Sandee Murren says:

    I actually like the radish greens better than radishes! Dinner was great last night!

  2. Glenda says:

    Hi Doc
    I am about to set up my vege patch so all these delights await me.

    PS: Ciabatta was only a moderate success – still tastes great – one more try I think. I took a photo for the blog.

    • drfugawe says:

      Hummm … is you starter on the restive side? What I have to do at times is to feed my starter more frequently (1x a day for 3 or 4 days) Starters tend to get lazy over time – actually, they get out of balance – and the frequent feedings brings it back.

      I’m glad you’re not just giving up on it – it’s too good a bread.

  3. I adore garlic scapes – last year we were given oodles from friends who are growers – and they freezer very well too! Could never quite get as attached to beetroot leaves, although Pete thinks they’re delicious…

    • drfugawe says:

      They are wonderful, aren’t they! I can see myself walking through the garden and snapping one off to crunch on it as I wander through – love ‘em.

      I think we go through stages of our lives, during which our likes and dislikes change – beets were once one of my least liked veggies, but recently I’ve come to love them so much (tops and bottoms) that each year I dedicate a large section of the garden to beets alone. I really adore baby beets done any way (and the tops in salads) – and last year someone introduced me to raw, shredded beets in salads – a wonderful way to enjoy them.

  4. MC says:

    What a yummy-looking dish! In France we also make soup with radish greens: lightly sauté them with some chopped onion and a diced potato, add boiling water or broth, simmer, blend with a stick blender, add a dollop of cream, adjust seasoning and serve over croutons of grilled country bread. Very green and very good!

    • drfugawe says:

      Oh, a very good idea, MC – we have a standing order for a ‘soup night’ once a week, but I seem to be married to the idea of using leftovers to make soup – but, radish greens are a leftover, aren’t they! I think I’ll use your idea for lunch today. Thanks, MC.

  5. Never ate radish greens but I’m certainly interested. It’s a simple looking dish and a wonderful way to use more of the plant…that really appeals to me. I tend to have given up on growing my own because we don’t get to them soon enough and they are a cool weather crop…don’t do well in our summer heat. Still I think I’ll plant some next spring and try this recipe with the greens. That plate looks wonderful! Your family is lucky to enjoy your talent…wish my husband liked to cook. Thanks for sharing it.

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi Glenda,
      I think you’d love them! They have a nice, rich flavor with a peppery touch – I just lost mine to a sort of moth that lays eggs at the base of the plant, and then the hatchlings burrow into the radish itself – I’ve got plenty of radish greens, but no roots! I’ll plant again in Sept, when it begins cooling off – you may want to try that too.

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