Root Vegetables Of Spring
When you talk about root vegetables, you might be thinking about autumn and early winter. But springtime has its own crop of veggies that come to us from under the soil, and no kitchen should be without them. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has a lot of ideas on what to do with these familiar treats.
Foremost in his mind are carrots, turnips and radishes. As the salad season starts up in earnest, Jerry points out that all three of these can be used creatively in salads... raw! What you want to do is either use a very sharp knife to cut them super thin, or get out your trusty mandolin, which will give you a uniform thinness.
And there's more to these three veggies than just the obvious parts. The green tops can be used in salads as well. They are perfectly edible and perfectly delicious. Cut the tops off as soon as you bring them home, put them in a glass of water and then straight into the fridge. This will keep them nice and crispy.
Let's start with radishes, which do very well in Maryland.
Radishes – have been around since way before the Romans started cultivating them. There are many varieties coming in all shapes, sizes and colors. Here are a few of our favorites: Watermelon radish - is slightly sweet and less peppery than regular radishes. Outside, it is between beige and white and a little green inside, its color reminds us of a watermelon, a white border around the bright pink. It is a type of daikon radish and takes approximately 50-60 days to reach maturity after planting. Three inches of spacing is sufficient for its growth.
The French Breakfast radish - is red, more elongated than round radishes and with a white rounded tip. It is mildly acrid and has a pleasant crispy taste. It is one of the early maturing varieties of radish which makes it great for containers and is ready to harvest in about 25-30 days after planting.
Malaga Violet radish - If other radish varieties are too spicy for you, then you will enjoy this radish’s sweet and mild taste with a touch of earthy flavor. This Polish variety has a round shape and a stunning deep purple color on the outside with bright white flesh. This is also an early maturing variety and takes 30-40 days to get ready.
Long Black Spanish radish - A black radish variety that, instead of being round, its black root can be around 9 inches in length. Despite the difference in shape the flavor and nutrition value remain the same in both round and long varieties. These radishes are one of the few that can also be used in cooked dishes, especially stir-fry.
Peter Cottontail wasn't the only one who loved turnips. Count Jerry among the vegetable's fans.
Turnips – most of us are familiar with the Purple-Top White Globe turnip. It is a large variety, usually 4 to 6 inches in size and great for cooking. But some of the smaller varieties work great raw.
Baby Bunch turnip and White Lady turnip – both have bright white skin and flesh and are picked at about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Hen sliced they have a lovely aroma of tart apple and taste similar to radishes but with a smooth mellow finish.
Hakurei - Hakurei is a white color, hybrid variety with hairless green tops, so they are great in salads. They should be picked at about 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
Carrots are wonderful to use in savory cooking. I look at them as one of the great ways of adding sweetness to a dish. But they undoubtedly belong in a salad.
Carrots – for the longest time carrots were anything but orange. In the 17th century, Dutch growers selected for a bright orange color carrot and that version has been with us ever since! Fortunately for use, many of the other colors and varieties are becoming popular once again.
Purple Dragon – a deep purple outside makes this carrot beautiful to look at. Cut open, the flesh fades to a bright orange center. The carrot tends to grow to about 6 inches in length.
Little Fingers – this is an orange carrot that grows to only about 3 to 4 inches in length. Although it is small it is full of intense flavor and a rich sweetness. It grows well in both gardens and containers.
Thumbelina – what is great about this small 1 to 2-inch round carrot is that it doesn’t need to be peeled! Just cut the tops of, slice and throw them into your favorite salad or cooked dish.