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WV Culinary Team: Plan meals around just-picked produce

These sweet looking radishes are the first vegetable to make it on my 2019 “Dirt List.” I couldn’t wait to bite into them when I received them from Tom Thiltgen of Thiltgen Farms on Easter.

Tom sent me the photo and asked if I wanted to try the “Easter Egg” radishes that were ready for harvesting. I was very excited to say “Yes!” and “Thank you!” I equate the opportunity to receive fresh vegetables out of the ground right up there with gifts on Christmas morning.

I was introduced to the Dirt List’” when I visited the restaurant Vedge in Philadelphia a few years ago. Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby created their “Dirt List” after receiving a sample box of local vegetables from a co-op in that area. It was filled with vegetables picked that morning.

In their cookbook, which has the same name as the restaurant, the chefs share their thoughts about how that sample box helped them create the Dirt List.

“The box contained carrots with their bright green leaves attached; fennel with beads of water on it that looked juicy enough to bite into like an apple; Swiss chard so crisp you could snap a leaf off. These vegetables tasted like vegetables — sweet and juicy with an undercurrent of earthiness you can get only when your food has just been pulled from your garden,” they wrote.

“The Dirt List was born from this concept: fresh seasonal vegetables, much of it less than twenty four hours out of the ground — cooked simply.”

This concept of fresh and simple has found its way into my kitchen more and more over the years. It doesn’t take a complicated recipe to create a flavorful, fresh dish when you have vegetables that carry the flavor for the dish.

Radishes usually are not the most exciting choice for a lot of people. I love them and enjoy trying all of the varieties available during the growing season.

The varieties of radishes available now are quick-growing spring roots. The most popular spring varieties are those that have bright red or red-white round roots (pictured); watermelon radishes with pink or red flesh; early scarlet or red globe; and white icicle, a long-rooted spring variety.

The common red radish found year-round at the grocery stores is the red globe variety. The spring version of these radishes are much less pungent.

Other radishes are slow-growing summer and winter vegetables. These radishes take twice as long to mature as the spring varieties and are usually grown for winter storage. The round black Spanish is a popular heirloom variety, which is crisp, sweet and mild.

The daikon radish, a favorite variety in Asian cultures, is a very large carrot-shaped root. It grows up to 3 feet long, although it is typically 12 to 18 inches in length. The flesh of the daikon is typically more pungent in the spring but milder than the winter radish. This radish is traditionally pickled in Asia and eaten after the rice portion of the meal to aid in digestion.

The radish is a root vegetable whose white flesh resembles that of a turnip in its texture, but whose sharp biting flavor is unique. It is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family.

All varieties of radishes and their greens (which are edible) are very low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin C. The radish leaves contain six times the vitamin C of the root and are a good source of calcium. Other nutrients available in radishes are molybdenum, folic acid and potassium. Daikons are a good source of copper and potassium.

The health benefits of eating radishes and their greens include maintaining a healthy gall bladder and liver and improving digestion. (Individuals with gall bladder disease should not consume large amounts of this vegetable.)

To prepare any radishes, scrub them as you would carrots, peel if desired, then slice, chop, julienne or grate as required for the recipe. All varieties can be used raw and also stand up to long cooking times as additions to soups or casseroles.

To keep radishes crisp when using them in cooked dishes, sprinkle them with a little salt after peeling and let stand for 20 minutes, then rinse well before adding to your recipe. Steaming radishes results in a milder tasting flavor. Steam 8 to 12 minutes.

Create your own Dirt List and have fun checking it off as you have the opportunity to find locally grown vegetables right out of the ground this spring and summer.

Try a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box:

Visit the Farmer’s Markets in and around your area www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/

  • farmersmarkets
  • wild-ramp-now-accepting-signups

Ask these questions:

  • If you are looking for organic, as well as local, ask if the vegetable and fruits are free of pesticides.
  • Do they grow their own produce or it is trucked in from other states? (Surprisingly, many vendors at farmers markets bring in produce from out of state).
  • When was the produce picked and how long has it been sitting out for sale?

Sally Miller is the owner and operator of Eats of Eden, a Charleston-based nutrition education business that offers an alternative choice for healing the body through nutrition. She attended Carnegie Mellon University and in 2009 graduated from Bauman Holistic Nutrition College, specializing in holistic nutrition education. She has recently become certified as a Gluten Free Practitioner. For more information on classes and consultations, visit her website at www.eatsofeden.com.