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