Monday, November 25, 2013

Farm Bulletin: Black is the Color

This week contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm extolls the virtues of root vegetables eaten raw in salads, a crisp, sweetly crunchy pleasure that I've become an advocate for, as well.

Not just less than lovely to look at, black radish a strong, coarse creature with a harsh bite best tempered by salting first. In northern Europe, it is served in beer halls, where the root is sliced paper thin and generously salted for about 20 minutes to an hour. The Boutard children grew up eating it that way, even before beer graced their evenings. It is amazing what a transformation a sprinkle of salt accomplishes.

Black radish seedlings.

We also prepare a couple of salads/relishes by running the radish through the medium julienne blade of a Benringer mandolin and salting it for an hour. We peel it in a desultory fashion, pulling off the coarsest parts but leaving some of the black peel as decoration. When wilted, we rinse off the salt and dress it with lemon juice and olive oil, or sour cream. Both are delicious. Anthony enjoys it by the plateful as a salad while Carol prefers it in smaller doses as a relish.

Black radish is one of those very healthful vegetables that has a dedicated subterranean following, but no commodity commission loudly promoting its benefits. For what its worth, the root is high in vitamin C and is regarded as a good stimulant for liver regeneration. Both welcome at this time of the year.

Celeriac aka knob celery aka celery root…all delicious!

Knob celery, aka celeriac, was another regular winter vegetable in the Boutard house. Anthony's mother cubed and cooked the root until just tender, and then dressed it with a vinaigrette while still warm. At Ayers Creek we most commonly eat it as a raw salad. We julienne the roots and dress them in lemon juice and olive oil with a generous amount of freshly ground cayenne. We also follow James Beard's celeriac remoulade recipe where he dresses it with mayonnaise seasoned by three different mustards: sharp English, Dijon and sweet German. We make generous portions of these salads and enjoy them over a two or three day period. A sprinkle of caraway is also nice variation.

When it grows large quickly, the root can develop a pithy heart. We generally plant our knob celery later than recommended so it grows slowly in the cool autumn weather, giving it a crisp texture all the way through. In trimming the roots, we retain the topknot of greenery whenever possible. It is not just that it looks like standard desert island cartoon image from the New Yorker, we like to chop up the green part into the salad.

Get a recipe for a Celery Root Remoulade.

Top photo from Heirloom Solutions. Photo of seedlings from Horizon Herbs.

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