Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rat Tail Radish

These odd little vegetables have all come and gone already but we grew so many that they'll be on my plate for months. I made raw fermented pickles out of them to stretch out their eating season. They take longer to grow than many traditional small sized radishes because this strange Indonesian heirloom variety is grown for its seed pods rather than its roots. Most other radishes are picked before they bolt, or send up a flowering stalk. This variety branches out profusely, so profusely in fact that i had to thin out about half of what I had planted to make room for them to grow. On these branches grow an immense array of tiny white/pink/purple flowers. With time, these tiny blossoms become huge radish pods. In fact its easy to get overwhelmed with picking them but persevere because they are best when tender and smaller. I harvested about 9 or 10 pounds over the course of about a month from about a dozen plants. I left the over grown seed pods on the plants, pulled them from the ground and left the whole plant to dry. Now I have lots of seeds for next year, even though I only need a few. Im spreading these to everyone I know. Like many Asian radishes, they are season sensitive. This variety only works when planted in the spring. A lot of small root radishes can be planted at any time and harvested within a month, which makes them great for filling in odd spaces at random times in the garden. These radishes were planted early here in Philadelphia, around mid March, and were harvested between mid May and early June.

Here is how I pickled them:

Rat Tail Radish Pickle

8 C Water
6 Tbl Sea Salt
3Tbl Pickling Spice
2 Cloves Garlic

A cookie jar full of Rat Tails, (maybe 12 C ?....)
Time- about 1-2 weeks in summer, to taste

The exact quantities do not matter. What does matter is the proportions on the brine. I use Sandor Katz recommendation of 4C water: 3Tbl salt for my raw fermenting brine. This is the way pre industrial pickles were made. The salt inhibits the growth of bad bacterias and promotes the growht of benefecial lactobacillus bacterias. The vegetables need to remain submerged under the salty brine. THIS IS CRUCIAL, exposure to air will create mold-which can be skimmed off but its better not to make it in the first place. I use a big cookie jar and then a smaller jar placed in the opening to weigh down the veggies. I then cover the top with a dish towel to keep bugs from landing in it.

As these good bacteria grow, the brine naturally turns sour! You dont need to add vinegar, which is itself a fermented product. I think I let this batch sit for 8 days, I tasted it and like it so I packed it up and put it in the fridge. Once each jar is packed, cover the contents with the brine. Refrigeration greatly slows the fermenting process but does not stop it. You can try packing them into smaller containers over times so you will get pickles of varying sourness if you like. Raw fermented products will continue to ferment indefinitely. Ive had sauerkrauts in my fridge for a year without them going bad. Time and temperature and salt are all related. The saltier the brine, the slower the ferment. The slower the ferment, the more complex flavor development. In the Winter a batch of Saurkraut or Kim Chi could take months to be sufficiently fermented, using the same amount of salt that might only take weeks in the Summer.

The Rat Tails are great fermented raw because they stay crisper. I water bath canned a few jars earlier in the season and wasnt pleased with the texture. They were really tasty both ways though. They naturally have a peppery/mustardy flavor that goes great with sour brine, garlic, fresh herbs or pickling spices. Hit me up if you want some seeds for next year if you're in Philly or buy some online from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

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