Saturday, May 14, 2011

Edible Plants of the Marginal Lands: Wild radishes on the margin (and durn near everywhere else!)

© 2011 Joshua Stark

I've known for a couple of years that wild radishes have edible leaves and seed-pods, and last year I even stumbled upon a ready crop of seeds.  By the time I could return, however, they'd already become woody and worthless for eating - in California's Central Valley, the shift from Winter to Spring to Summer takes about four days (this year is far different, by the way).

This year, then, I was ready for them, and sure enough, I've found seed-pods that were ready.  Ripe (for lack of  a better word) wild radish seedpods are translucent green, long and skinny and bean-looking, and stick straight up along the plant.  Of course, the best way to test if they are ready is to eat one:  it should taste exactly like a particularly peppery radish from the store, except that I've not yet found a wild radish to be bitter. 

Not knowing what to do with them, I pickled them refrigerator-style:  Half vinegar, half water, a little sugar - sort-of the encortido version of radishes.  I'll let you know tomorrow how it works. 

I'm really hoping they work because we love radishes, we have a hard time growing them (our radishes are always extraordinarily bitter), and wild radishes are everywhere around here, as ubiquitous as wild mustard and fennel.

If you live around here, any vacant lot, road's edge or fallowed field will likely hold wild radishes.  They can grow from a few inches to three or four feet tall, and are often found in fields with wild mustards - the yellow flowers are mustard, and the white or lavendar flowers are radishes. 

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