“Just sign in over there and I’ll start putting your share together,” said the young woman behind the table. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was at the local college picking up my winter farm share. Yes, it’s winter. No, not much grows around here in winter. But the local farms got together and saved some of their earlier harvests – either by freezing or putting in root cellars – and then sold “shares” to the public. So once a month from Dec – March, I go pick up my goodies.
As I filled up my green reusable shopping bag, she said,”And be sure to check out what our other vendors are selling – especially the watermelon radishes.”
“Watermelon radishes?” I asked. “What are those?”
“Oh – they’re delicious! You can go try them at the table over there.” I looked over to see a heavily bearded man in flannel standing behind a table. Lined up on the table in front of him were open plastic containers, the contents of which I couldn’t see from where I was standing. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll take a look.”
The guy looked like he belonged in Vermont, not one hundred miles north of New York City. “Hello,” I said cheerfully. He nodded in reply, looking a little shy. I recognized the name of his farm as the one where this months carrots came from. “Oh – so you’re the one who grew the carrots I just got,” I said, trying to make conversation. “No,” he said. “I didn’t grow them. They just stored them in my root cellar.” “Oh,” I said. “Is this your root cellar here?” I pointed to an open magazine facing me on the table. The picture showed what looked like a basement with a dirt floor and raised sandboxes all over the room. “Yeah,” he replied, “I’m the only one locally with a commercial root cellar. We store the carrots in the sand you see there.” Now I was talking his language. He proceeded to tell me about the other vegetables he stored in the root cellar.
“And what are these?” I asked, pointing to white orbs the size of beets sitting in a square plastic container on the table. “Watermelon radishes,” he replied. “You can try a slice if you’d like.” My childhood fear of foreign foods reared its ugly head. Stalling, I asked, “Why do they call them watermelon radishes?” hoping he’d say they tasted like watermelons. “Because they’re red on the inside and have a whitish/green rind on the outside.”
Remembering I’m now an adult who should try new things, I took a slice and popped it in my mouth. Wow. “They’ve got a little kick!” I said. He shrugged. “They’re a little peppery people say,” he replied.
“What do you do with them?” I asked. “I just grate them and eat them like a salad.” “Do you peel them first?” “No – just wash ’em and shred ’em.” I noticed his lunch of wild grains and figured he wasn’t one to doctor with his food too much. “Ok. I’ll take some.”
It was only as I was driving home that I realized I didn’t own a grater. Having moved ten times in ten years, it had gotten lost along the way. I knew not to fear. While at mom and dad’s house in the coming week, I mentioned my lack of this kitchen utensil that, in the past year, I’d never needed. “Oh – I’m sure I’ve got an extra one,” my mother said. I was sure she did. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d found success in checking with mom and dad before running out to a store.
At home with my new acquisition – a plastic green tupperware shredder circa 1975 – I googled “watermelon radishes.” It was just like he said – people pretty much just shred them up. But I did find a dijon vinaigrette recipe for a dressing. I had all the ingredients, and so put it together and poured some over my shredded radishes. It was delicious!
And then tonight, while looking around on the web for other local markets in my area, I happened upon a farm with a cafe that serves breads made with their own flour – they grow and mill the grains themselves! In fact, every ingredient in every dish they serve is local. I read an article about the place and it’s owner. His favorite dish? Shredded watermelon radishes with salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar. And I can say, from personal experience, he’s right. It’s delicious:)