Tag Archives: winter garden

Growing Radishes

4 Feb

Last winter, spring, and again this winter I’ve grown a variety of radishes (almost all from Kitazawa Seed‘s excellent selection) in a raised bed in the back yard– a very easy crop (and one that can grow off-season in the Bay Area).

Just jotting down a few notes here from across the garden journal:

  • Japanese Scarlet Radish: Crisp, attractive, mild heat, grew fast, the healthiest of the plants, would grow again as a good salad radish or to eat fresh with butter and salt.
  • White Icicle Radish: Watery taste, fairly bland
  • Korean Good Luck Radish: Large– 2″ diameter and 5″ long. Stayed crisp, with some lingering heat (seemed to be from the skin). Had a lot issues with germination and seedling survival, though.
  • Chinese Mantanghong (Watermelon) Radish: Beautiful concentric circles of white and pink, quite spicy– but they all ended up a bit pithy and with a tough skin I had to peel off (I assume this means I left them in the ground too long or should have grown them earlier in the winter when it was even cooler, but it’s unclear).
  • Minowase Daikon: A lot of my seedlings died originally, but the ones that survived produced an excellent radish– long and firm– and in particular, with especially tasty greens (not raw, as they were a little prickly/spiny, but just a few minutes sauteed with garlic or added to a soup for its last few minutes on the stove and they were delicious). This year I’m growing more daikon to leave in the ground for a while, primarily for the greens– every few days we harvest another set of outer greens as a side dish for some meal.
  • Japanese Purple Radish (can’t remember where I got these seeds or what the exact variety is): Another nice firm, crisp, mild heat radish, made great quick pickles (I expect the Scarlet Radish also would have).
  • Rattail Radish: Growing them this winter, they’re prolific and fast growing but haven’t put up the seed pods (which is what you eat rather than the root), so no “tasting notes” yet.

Every variety grew fast– looking back at my notes, last spring I started seeds indoors on 2/16,  they’d sprouted by 2/20, I transplanted some to 3″ pots on 3/5 (likely an unnecessary interim step for a radish), planted them outdoors on 3/12 (after a few days of ‘hardening off’– setting them outdoors but under an awning so they didn’t get direct sun), and was eating my first large radishes on 4/15.

Other things I learned / to remember:

  • Directly seeding them outdoors was hit or miss even though that should work in theory– the ones that sprouted grew just fine, but most never sprouted (eaten by birds? not staying moist enough? temperature?)
  • Light from an open window / windowsill was enough to sprout the seeds but not enough for the seedlings to grow more than about a centimeter (they ended up too tall and spindly as they reached for more light)– a grow light (with a fan to keep them cool) helped.
  • Because they grow so fast, I should remember to arrange them to the North of other seedlings in the raised bed so they don’t quickly shade and then crowd out the shorter seedlings.
  • Having too densely-packed earth or even small bits of gravel / rock in the raised bed some distance below the surface causes the radishes to turn, split, and contort in visually interesting but hard-to-peel ways… (see the fist-sized ‘Cthulhu radish’ picture above of this)




Caramelized Garlic, Kale, and Cheese Tart

28 Jan

The caramelized garlic tart in Ottolenghi’s Plenty is very good. I recently made a greener tart inspired by it that combined:

  • A basic butter pie crust, pre-baked until golden
  • Three heads of heirloom garlic cloves, caramelized with a little red wine vinegar (following the general process in the recipe above)
  • Gruyere and goat chevre
  • A whole bowlful of kale from the winter garden, chiffonaded and wilted / cooked down for a few minutes in a skillet
  • 4 eggs and a little milk and yogurt to fill the tart

It worked well for breakfast the next morning, too…

Radicchio-Kale-Bacon Omelet

12 Mar

From the back yard garden, kale and radicchio that’s finally forming heads (planted last fall).

With fermented Jimmy Nardello pepper paste…

Savory cornmeal pancakes, backyard greens

15 Jan

For a savory brunch, we made cornmeal pancakes from some beautiful Floriani red flint corn my sister grew and ground:



I took a ‘Johnnycakes’ approach, which is more like a thin griddled cornbread or polenta, with no baking powder or flour. The general recipe (made 12 hearty pancakes, for 4 adults + 2 kids with toppings):

  • Mix 2 cups of cornmeal, 2 cups boiling water, and 1 tsp salt, stir and cover for 10 minutes, to let the hot water soften the cornmeal
  • Stir in  between 1/2 and 3/4 cup milk, gradually, stopping when it’s a very thick but spreadable batter (when I did this a few months ago and added too much milk, the batter was too runny and I ended up making thin crisp corn wafers).
    • [update] When I made these again from fresh-ground fine blue cornmeal a few months later, I ended up using about twice as much milk to make this closer to a thick pancake batter
  • Mix in 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cook in an oiled skillet on medium (or medium-low) heat, flipping when golden brown. I found it took about 4 minutes per side.

I made test pancakes with and without egg in the batter, and the one with egg and a bit more liquid made a thinner, smoother, more traditional-looking pancake (on the right)– but while both were delicious we preferred the texture of the eggless, thicker version on the left:


We served them with a buffet of savory toppings– black-and-white orca beans, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, avocado, and a collection of beautiful greens from the back yard ‘winter garden’ (which in Oakland has been just hugging the edge of frost at night)– mizuna, broccoli greens, kale, arugula, daikon greens, and some oregano and thyme, sautéed with caramelized red onions and garlic. The daikon greens have been a surprisingly good addition to many sautés– they give off a puff of mustardy spice when you first start to cook them but then mellow out.


This quick cell phone photo of a plate doesn’t make it look especially appealing, but this was a delicious (and relatively simple) combination I’d make again: