Get your daikon

Daikon radish, that is. In fact, get all your root vegetables on, because in Austin, they are just now filling up the stands at the farmer’s markets. Turnips and beets, radishes, potatoes, yams.

daikon2.jpg“Not my favorite,” said hubby E.I. Ho, when I came home bearing a bag of turnips and baby radishes from Boggy Creek farm. When we first started dating, we made a list of each other’s food aversions. Among his most-hated were beets, sweet potatoes, and any kind of “sweets with meats,” (e.g. pork chops and applesauce, a yummy rack of lamb and raspberry sauce I’ve been dying to cook).

It’s not that I was trying to gross him out, or that I bear some kind of hostility toward my husband that I choose to express through cuisine. Not to overshare, but we get all that out through frequent wrestling matches. It’s just…they were so damn attractive. Also, I wanted to see if he really hated beets, or just the mushy canned kind. “You don’t have to eat them,” I said. “I bought some salad greens for backup.”

I found out something about root veggies while at the farmer’s market. Apparently, the greens are edible too. I know a lot of foodies out there have probably known this for quite some time, but it had never occured to me to eat beet greens or turnip greens. I guess you can eat broccoli leaves, too. By the way, turnip greens are excellent with scrambled eggs, and beet greens are effing delicious.

hpim5141.jpgSo for dinner I roasted the beets in the oven. It’s incredibly simple: Cut the greens off about an inch from the beet itself, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in foil, twisting the foil at the ends. Roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, or until a fork slides in easily. Make sure you roast them unpeeled, because the skin is much easier to take off after the beets have been roasted.

Guess what hubby thought? Yummers. “What did you do to them?” he asked. “These don’t taste anything like the ones I had before.”

“I’ll bet the ones you had before were canned.”

“Hm. Well, I guess we can cross beets off the list. The greens are really good, too.”

You know what else is yummy? Radishes! I like to put them in salads. On Saturday we got a black Spanish radish. Like Butter Bitch, I can’t help buying weird things. My husband eyed it suspiciously. “I’ll just buy one and put it in a salad,” I promised.

“Or you could just eat it,” he suggested brightly. Which I did, and it packed waaaayyy more of a punch than red radishes. It tasted like burning.

sunchokes2.jpgAnother odd find: Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes. Bearing a striking resistance to gingerroot, they are actually the roots of sunflowers. Does this mean you can dig up the roots of sunflowers and eat them? Um, I don’t actually know. Googling was inconclusive. I’ll have to go back to Animal Farm (from the downtown farmer’s market) and ask. High in potassium, iron, and thiamine, the sunchoke is also a low-starch vegetable.

I sliced some up and roasted them with potatoes. They were a bit gritty (must remember to buy a vegetable brush), and perhaps too strong for the potatoes. They had kind of a radishy taste to them. I think they would be very good as a soup, or sliced up and chunked into a stirfry.

I have to admit that I feel rather guilty for subjecting my hubby to all these root veggies. I think I might be able to make up for it by buying several Green’s organic chocolate bars. Wait, I guess I’m really doing that for me. Maybe a back massage by candlelight. Or maybe I’ll just let him win at wrestling.

You know what else winter is good for, besides root veggies? Cuddling.

5 Responsesto “Get your daikon”

  1. Roni says:

    I LOVE fresh roasted beets! Try adding some fresh herbs with the olive oil. Fantastic!

  2. patrick says:

    yep, beet greens are also known as chard! (chard = beets grown for leaves, beets = chard grown for roots. basically)

    similarly, sunchokes are a type of sunflower grown for their root. The name “jerusalem” comes from a mis-americanization of the Italian word for sunflower, “Girasol.” I wish I could remember where i learned that, because it was recent.

    Diakon makes super good kim-chi. google “daikon kimchi” and be overwhelmed with recipes. if you can find some of the pink (“watermelon”) kind it will be very pretty as well.

    I ate a black radish like you did and paid for it the rest of the day. Ouch! it burned. Not sure what to do with those guys, though I imagine it involves cooking.

  3. Omniwhore says:


    Thanks for the tip! I’m always buying fresh herbs that look interesting and worrying that I won’t use all of them. What kind of herbs do you usually use?

    Patrick — thanks for clearing up those questions for me! I looked for a pink daikon, but alas, could not find any. How does one grow something for roots vs. for the leaves? Degree of watering? Sunlight? Prayer?

    I saw the black radishes again today at the Farmer’s Market, and my mouth burned, just looking at them. Let me know if you find a way to deal with those suckers.

  4. patrick says:

    “How does one grow something for roots vs. for the leaves? Degree of watering? Sunlight? Prayer?”


    I think I was a bit unclear here. What I mean is that certain varieties of vegetables are bred and selected for certain attributes. it’s more a process of selection and breeding– some veg are bred to produce abundant leaves, some to produce big roots.

    What it is, is evolution– the attributes don’t happen over a growing season, they happen by selecting particular qualities from a group and using the seeds of the preferred specimens. Even if you just save seeds, with no intention of developing your own cultivars, you’ll soon learn the benefit of this practice. Let’s say you want to save seeds from your tomatoes. You have five tomato plants, two of which shrivel and perform miserably, and three of which grow steadily and provide you with bountiful harvests. Naturally you’d save the seeds from the plants that did well in your climate and growing conditions. That’s “selection.”

    Beets and chard are different cultivars of the same species– specifically, chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla) is a sub-species of beet (Beta vulgaris). The Wikipedia offers a good explanation of the two plants.

    Other examples of varied plant types within one species:

    Chile peppers (nearly all common culinary types are Capsicum annum, from the innocent bell pepper to the jalapeño);

    The species Brassica rapa, which includes bok choy, napa cabbage, turnips, broccoli rabe, mizuna, and, if I’m not mistaken, rapeseed (the source of canola oil).

    Anyway, I do go on. Hope that clears things up.


  5. Omniwhore says:

    Wow! Now I’ve given myself away as having a decidedly ungreen thumb…but what the hey, that’s interesting stuff. About ten years ago I dug up some turf in front of this little house I was renting, thinking I was going to plant a garden there. After about a half hour of digging, I decided gardening wasn’t for me.

    However, with all this new knowledge I’m gaining (along with a new understanding of the value of growing your own food), it’s looking more and more appealing. Thanks so much for sorting that out for me (and others that think you can coax plants into growing more leaves)! :-)