Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pt. Reyes Test Kitchen: Radishes and Beets

You might wonder, what are you going to do with radishes on a regular basis? Obviously, we put them in salads. That's just fine. They fit right in and are a good source of Vitamin C. The French Breakfast radishes are particularly good sliced thin and served on a slice of fresh bread with butter and salt. I'm not sure where we read about this....but it is an excellent treat.

However, real men don't only have two options for eating a vegetable, especially when neither of them involved cooking. This is where yesterday's test kitchen picked up. I thought...I've never heard of sauteed radishes, let's give it a shot. And while I was at it, I harvested three types of beets from the beds. The dark purple is Bull's Blood, the yellow are Goldens, and the candy-cane looking beet is a Chioggia.

Experiment One - Sauteed Radishes vs. Raw Radishes. The radishes were OK sauteed, you could use them in a pasta perhaps as a source of nutrition and you might not notice they were there. Denise thought the texture was a little off and I just thought they were a little bland.
Verdict -When radishes lose their crispness and their spicy kick, what's the point.

Experiment Two - Sauteed Beet Greens vs. Raw Beet Greens. The Golden and the Chioggia greens are actually green, the Bull's Blood are red/purple. I cooked all three and the Golden and Chioggia greens were excellent cooked. The Bull's Blood...not so much. The funny thing about this experiment, is that if you just bite into a Bull's Blood green raw, they are the sweetest and best. Almost sweet enough to make into a salad green, especially when they are young. On the other hand, the Golden, and particularly the Chioggia were really unpleasant as raw greens.
Verdict - Sauteed Golden and Chioggia Beet Greens make an excellent green for a dinner, lunch, or perhaps even frittata/omelet. The baby Bull's Blood greens could be used in a mesclun or on their own as a salad.

Experiment Three - Sauteed Beets vs. Raw Beets. OK, OK, this isn't much of an experiment. Of course the beets will be good. But what we found interesting about the Chioggias was that they are excellent eaten raw, like say, a radish. In fact, I prefer them to radishes raw. The Bull's Blood and Goldens are not so good raw. They have a hint of beet taste, but it seems that they only really release their sweetness/taste once cooked. (This might also have to do with size. The beets I harvested are about an inch and a half in diameter.
Verdict - Chioggias, in my opinion, are the rockstars of the beet world. The root is good raw, good cooked. The greens are excellent cooked. I have built a new "Beet Box" out back and ordered more Chioggia seeds. My plan is to use succession planting for the rest of the season so we always have Chioggias on hand.

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