The road to being a master gardener is long and treacherous; lined with carrot flies, slugs, the wrong type of soil, not enough sun, too much water and other assorted pitfalls. I fell foul of one such misfortune this week, a mere month into my grow-your-own experiment.
Upon carrying out a quick status check of my smallholding on Monday evening, I discovered, to my delight, at least 20 radishes that were in prime harvest condition, their gloriously swollen scarlet bulbs breaking ground, screamed “pick me”. I harvested them. As I pulled on the first I felt the slightest resistance from the thread-thin root the radish had anchored itself to mother-earth with, then, pop, out it came, still warm from the sun-bathed soil. I couldn’t have been happier.
But, on closer inspection I came across a most unusual problem. Pretty much all my little radish babies were peppered with perfectly round holes, about five millimeters in diameter. I had heard that in certain years, gardens could be plagued by particularly vicious slugs. Had mine turned up this year with tiny machine guns? It would seem so.
Pia informed me that this was clearly not possible (I’m starting a conspiracy theory group online anyway. In case you’re interested), and that the more likely cause was that some kind of insect/worm/hail storm was the more likely culprit. She’s so smart.
Regardless of what had made the holes, I had prepared ground, planted, watered and nurtured those little radishes. I was going to eat them. I ate a worm as a child (a bet), calf head in Paris (a mistake in my menu translation) and grasshoppers in China (for the sake of my profession). I could absolutely eat a radish with a bit of insect saliva on it.
I wrapped them in paper and put them in the fridge. My plan: radishes with butter and salt (a simple, French classic) as a snack on Tuesday.
Tuesday came (obviously) and I took out my radishes. I had looked forward to this moment since the beginning of the year, when I committed to my long-time dream of growing my own vegetables.
In the movies, most stories have a happy ending. Tuesday evening was real life. When I plucked the first radish from its resting place I felt the problem immediately. It was soft, spongy and altogether inedible. Unlike the radishes I buy from the shop, it seems that mine have a shelf life of about 20 minutes. As if radishes with collateral damage weren’t bad enough, I now had red sponges riddled with bullet holes. I was devastated.
But, my dear readers, I never give up (not often, anyway). I had an idea. The radish leaves, still attached, were crisp, healthy looking and untouched by any weapons of vegetable destruction. I had an idea. A quick Google search revealed that there is such a thing as radish leaf pesto. I was tempted to look up a recipe, but my pride got the better of me. I freestyled. The result: one of the tastiest things I have ever made in the kitchen.
Emerald green, piquant, earthy and thoroughly delicious; even if you don’t grow your own, I can recommend seeking out radishes with plenty of leaves and trying this yourself. It is quick, easy and fantastically tasty.
I had a happy ending after all, of sorts. Here is as close to a good recipe as I can make from my guesswork. Experiment a little. I hope it works for you.
Rob’s Radish Leaf Pesto
- 2 handfuls of fresh, washed and dried radish leaves, thick stalks removed (dry in a salad spinner or press between layers of kitchen paper).
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 lump of pecorino cheese (about the size of a small fist), grated
- The zest of half a lemon
- 1 good glug of olive oil (go easy on this, as you can always add more later)
- 1 small handful of pine nuts
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place all the ingredients in a food processor.
Blitz until smooth.
Adjust the oil and the seasoning.