How to eat a whole plant.
Depending on the plant, it’s not that hard to eat the whole thing. But it does look impressive when the plant is nearly as tall as your five year-old.
When I started composting my food scraps, I began to realise just how wasteful we can be when it comes to food preparation. Incredibly, an estimated 40% of food is wasted in Australian kitchens each day . Now that I am growing some of my own herbs, fruits and vegetables, I see the effort and love that goes into them and I don’t want to waste a morsel.
Having faced disappointment at the hand of preserved daikon, I chose to plant daikon radish seeds in my herb garden because I wanted to experience the reported amazingness of this root vegetable.
The daikon radish is renowned for its overall health benefits in Chinese medicine. A short burst of googling shows this bitter root to be very healthful, containing appreciable levels of vitamin C, sulforaphane and flavonoids [2,3]. A morning scan of recent news tells me that the daikon radish, which can grow to more than 30cm (a foot) in length, may also be instrumental in preventing excess nutrients from entering our water supply .
My first-picked radish was smallish but fresh and mild in its bitterness; the second was tastier and about the size of a carrot. As time goes on, the radish root gets bigger and less sweet, and the plant begins to flower. It was the flower buds that led me to the daikon’s heritage, as part of the Brassicaceae family (along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale).
We have been eating through our radishes one by one, in their entirety. The young leaves are tasty in salads, older leaves are great in stirfries and soups, the root is tasty roasted or eaten raw in salads, the yet-to-grow pods (fruit) are apparently delicious in a stirfry, and every part of the plant can be juiced.
In the course of my foodly journey, I have discovered that the oft-discarded foliage of domesticated vegetables can be edible and highly nutritious. For example,
- you can eat or juice celery tops raw, or use them as an base ingredient in vegetable stock;
- beetroot leaves are lovely in salads;
- the leaves from regular radishes can be added to smoothies and juices; and
- carrot greens can be eaten in salads, pestos and soups.
(Aside: if you are thinking “aren’t carrot and celery tops toxic?”, I encourage you to start your own research by reading the articles linked under  &  below, bearing in mind that once-upon-a-time it was common knowledge that tomatoes would kill you .)
I should share another side benefit of growing your own daikon radishes: if you’re a beginner gardener like me, you might be pleased to learn that this is a plant which pretty much grows itself.
I did not realise on first planting just how addictive this plant-tend-eat-compost thing would be for me; I spend part of every day talking or singing to my sproutlings if I am not watering, mulching or feeding the little cuties. My tomatoes and mustard greens are looking excellent, by the way. And, with a new radish crop ascending, I am hoping to be able to hold myself back from their crispy deliciousness for long enough to grow just one to its limb-sized potential.
- Skelton, R. (Ed) (2013) “Do Australians waste $8 billion worth of edible food each year?” on ABC News: Fact Check. Available online via http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-08/food-waste-value-australia/4993930 [last accessed: 30 October 2013].
- Rudrappa, U. (2013) “Radish nutrition facts” on http://www.nutrition-and-you.com. Available online via http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/radish.html [last accessed: 2 November 2013].
- Manchali, S., Murthy, K. N . C. & Patil, B. S. (2012) “Crucial facts about health benefits of popular cruciferous vegetables” in the Journal of Functional Foods Volume 4, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 94â€“106, via ScienceDirect. Available online via http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464611000843 [last accessed: 3 November 2013].
- Leschin-Hoar, C. (2013) “Can Radishes Be The Secret Weapon In Protecting Our Water from Big Farming’s Runoff?” on Take Part. Available online via http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/10/29/can-radishes-protect-our-water-0 [last accessed: 30 October 2013].
- Ly, L. (2013) “Are Carrot Tops Toxic? (The Short Answer: No)” on Garden Betty: Diary of a Dirty Girl. Available online via http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/07/are-carrot-tops-toxic-the-short-answer-no/ [last accessed: 3 November 2013].
- Philpott, J. (2013) “On celery, seduction, science and salad” on Jane Philpott’s Food, Nutrition and Cookery Blog. Available online via http://drjanephilpott.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/on-celery-seduction-science-and-salad/ [last accessed: 5 November 2013].
- Smith, K. A. (2013) “Why the Tomato Was Feared in Europe for More Than 200 Years” on Smithsonian.com. Available online via http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2013/06/why-the-tomato-was-feared-in-europe-for-more-than-200-years/ [last accessed: 5 November 2013].
Addendum of 6 November 2013: Spelling errors have been corrected! So sorry if they caused your brain any pain. It’s what happens when you mix a tired Hannah with midnight blogging…