Radishes and Rutabagas

Yes, my friends, I’m still talking about vegetables, even though the gardening season is over.

rutabagas-250pxThanksgiving is coming, and, in my opinion, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without rutabaga. Also known as a swede (short for Swedish turnip), yellow turnip, baigie, snagger, or neep, a rutabaga is the result of crossing a turnip with a cabbage. I can’t figure out how that works, but I do know that rutabaga is seriously good.

In my opinion, at least. Not everyone agrees with me. In fact, most people I know have never tasted it, and frequently when I buy them, the person at the check-out asks me what it is.

I’m told that in Germany and France, rutabaga is looked down upon due to its association with the food shortages that followed both World Wars. Most people in my family don’t care for it simply because they don’t like it, not because of unpleasant memories. From what I’ve read, people with a sensitivity to bitter tastes find it quite nasty, though I’ve never noted any bitterness in its flavor.

Though I love rutabaga, and it grows in this climate, we don’t grow it in our garden. We tried it a couple of times, but it never did very well. No, let me amend that: the first time it didn’t do well. The second year, it looked a lot better, but when we went to harvest them, we discovered mice had burrowed into them and were living in them. We didn’t try again after that. static.squarespace.com

(Just now, when I looked for a photo of a mouse in a rutabaga, I actually found one. So apparently it’s not that rare a thing.)

But I buy them from time to time, especially in November. Because Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without rutabaga.

One thing I don’t buy this time of year is radishes. That’s because, when almost everything in the garden is harvested, we plant tillage radishes as a cover crop. They’re great for the soil, as the taproots grow down several feet, pulling up nutrients and aerating the soil. If you’re interested in reading about some of their amazing properties, check out this website. What isn’t mentioned on the site, though, is our favorite thing about these radishes: They’re delicious to eat.

p-tillage-radish-featuredThe photo to the left, which I borrowed from the website, shows them growing. However, the next photo shows a few I pulled from our own garden a week ago or so. It’s fun to be able to harvest fresh things from the garden in November! Something that isn’t a brussels sprout, that is.

These crunchy radishes are great for salads, snacking, shredding up in coleslaw, adding to kimchi (if you make that sort of thing), and — our personal favorite — 2014-11-12 14.06.25-2sandwiches. Radish sandwiches used to be a particular favorite of ours in the spring, but since we discovered tillage radishes, it’s now an autumn treat as well.

As you can probably see, some of these radishes would have been longer, except that they broke off when I pulled them. But no worries: there’s still plenty to go around!

Ah, yes. Autumn is a great time of year in the garden. (Especially if you’re a mouse.)

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