Saturday, May 9, 2009
It's not the size of the radish in the fight...
When I was a kid back in Iowa, I can remember my mother bringing home vegetables from our neighbors' gardens. Radishes were a favorite around our house. My mom would top and tail them and then pop them in a bowl of ice water for snacking any time. They were so good: hot and firey, but not like a chile that gets you at the back of the tongue. A radish gets you in the sinuses. When I got older and more culinarily experienced, I would call it similar to wasabi (another radish from around the world). Even the radishes mom got at the grocery were nice. I would put on of the red globes in my mouth and bite down, then run around the kitchen in a mix of ecstasy and pain until a few seconds went by and all was back to normal. Then I'd go for another.
We have planted a ton of radish in our garden but they hadn't matured enough until this week. Being impatient and ready for radishes, last week I bought a bunch of radishes for salads and such. They looked so good: round and red, just right for that bite of heat to my lettuce mix, or so I thought. When I cut them open and took a bite, I couldn't believe that I was eating a radish. It had no flavor at all, no bite, no nothing. I tried another. And another. Nothing, zip, nada.
When I pull the radished from our own garden I am pleasently surprised with some heat. Not as much as I remember, but that lovely, spicy flavor is there. So I have to wonder: how much of our food has changed over the years? Or is it our taste buds that change? Probably a bit of both, although I find chiles just as hot now as I used to do.
Tomatoes are my food 'canary' in the mine. I can rarely find a supermarket tomato that I find edible. The ones at the street farmers market usually fare much better. They normally grow non-hybridized heirloom varieties and they pick them when they are ready, and only have them in the summer. For the last few years I only eat tomatoes in the summer, which makes Barry a bit sad, I think. He loves tomatoes. I maintain that flavorless, spongy red things are not tomatoes at all, and doing without them isn't a hardship. I think I might have to keep a coldframe with tomato plants year 'round. I've got about six tomato plants going right now, with more seedlings on the way.
Last year I put up several jars of Tomato Jam, Tomato Preserves and a Tomato-Onion-Date Chutney. I enjoyed myself and paid homage to my mother.