I find it difficult to fathom things that are very, very, very old. My mind goes into a sort of warp and I end up feeling small, inconsequential. I didn’t know until this morning that radishes could have this effect on me. Turns out they’re old. Very, very, very old. Nine-millennia-of-human-cultivation old. So old that no one is quite sure of their origins. So old their wild ancestor has disappeared into those proverbial mists.
And yet, every spring they seem brand new. They’re one of the simplest and most gratifying things to grow. They sprout out of the ground after a few days and they’re ready to eat in a matter of weeks. In fact, waiting on radishes is not rewarded. As Waverly Root tells us, “radishes have to be harvested young, as soon as they become edible. An old radish is a worthless radish—woody, usually wormy and frequently hollow in the center.”
Adding to their charm is that radishes require no more preparation than a wash and a trim and a sprinkle of salt. Though I love them in salads, where they add both color and flavor and while they can be cooked or pickled, I have to agree with Alan Davidson when he suggests that “perhaps the most satisfactory way to eat them is to hold what is left of the green stalk between one’s fingers, rub the radish over a piece of butter, dip it in salt (as Evelyn, 1699, remarked, it brings its own pepper!), and eat it with bread and butter.”
I’m not sure that William Wallace Irwin had this in mind when he called radishes “gay and playful,” but carved into mice they’re just too cute and the perfect garnish for a cheese plate.
Inspired by Y.
- as many radishes as you want mice
- cold water
- Wash radishes and trim off the greens, leaving a bit of a 'nose' behind. Clean the 'tail', removing most of the tendrils coming off the main root. Using a paring knife, make two slits on either side of the radish where a mouse's ears would be. Repeat on remaining radishes. Soak in cold water for an hour or so, or until the ears stick out. When ready to use, cut a strip off the 'belly' of the mouse so that it will stand up instead of rolling on its side.