Alternative vegetables: radish edition

What to do when your radishes bolt into flower before the root sizes up enough to eat?

Radish Pods / Rat-tail Radishes (From Plant Pictures)

Why, eat them anyway, of course!

Radish pods are my new favorite low-maintenance vegetable crop. Don’t let the seed catalogs convince you that you need a special variety of radish to grow these tasty seed pods – my radish population is a bastard cross of three years of French Breakfast, Cherry Belle and daikon intermingled by bees, and the pods tasted great – mild radish flavor with the crunch and juice of snap peas. (Well, there were a few skinny ones that were spicy enough to blow my head off, but I am convinced with no evidence that they came from the relatively unimproved daikon. Any cultivated garden variety radish should do you fine.) Harvest when bright, shiny and firm, before the insides get fibrous. They should be preservable in the same ways as snap peas or green beans – Terre Vivante specifies jarring these, soaking them in a few changes of water, then lactofermenting.

These pictures are from 5 July, the end of the spring self-sown batch, but the next batch is flowering now and should give me another crop of pods before frost. Make sure to leave some pods to mature for next year’s seed – and if you leave the pods on the plant long enough, they’ll split and self-sow. Vegetable gardening can’t get any easier than that.

From Plant Pictures

The flowers are tasty too, if you can’t wait for the seed pods to develop – and are actually spicier in flavor than the pods. And of course the cooked leaves are good for soups and greens.

The best thing about radish pods – for the same effort, one radish plant will give you one radish root, or 30-50 pods. I know which I’m choosing.

From Plant Pictures

Permaculturists, don’t forget the immense value of deep daikon roots for breaking down hard-packed soil and infiltrating organic matter deep into tough clay. By taking the additional yield of pods, you can have your radish flavor and your organic matter boost too!

And it is also:

Shiitake Time!

From Mushrooms

These pictures are about 2 weeks old – the mushrooms have tripled in size, were picked and carefully rinsed free from insects, and are residing in my fridge. These are the West Wind strain from Field & Forest – my very first to fruit outdoors ever!

And as of 10 minutes ago it is officially King Stropharia Time!

From Mushrooms

These are also the first ever to fruit, from the beds I planted 13 months ago. Notice the lovely vigorous mycelium at the base of the stem – this actively-growing matter would have enough energy to begin colonizing some fresh substrate, if I picked it carefully.

From Mushrooms
From Mushrooms

Juvenile glee over mushroom kits

Today I assembled the door prizes for my Garden Club talk on Edible Mushrooms, tomorrow night.

From Mushrooms

I think these are pretty damn awesome door prizes, but then again, I am seven years old.

Field and Forest Products had the insight that not many people have convenient sources of wood lying around, but they DO have convenient preprocessed wood lying around – toilet paper! It’s fairly sterile, predigested for fast mushroom growth, comes in nice small manageable units – in short, a great substrate for an indoor mushroom kit. You do have to have the right sense of humor to properly appreciate the idea – but I certainly qualify. (I hope the attendees tomorrow night agree.) They have picked out four mushroom strains that do well on this particular substrate – Nameko, Italian Oyster, Golden Oyster, and Grey Dove Oyster – and sell kits complete with the filter patch bags to keep in the necessary humidity. Hie ye to the website – these are totally worth it. I got the Mushrooms of Many Colors kit, which includes materials for five rolls each of all three oysters – and I have grain spawn left over for an outside bed, box o’ straw, or recycling into new tp rolls, whichever comes first.

To assemble, you start by soaking nice new rolls of toilet paper in boiling water – and try to avoid the fooosh of scalding bubbles that erupt as the air in the rolls escapes. Tongs recommended.

From Mushrooms

Steamy steamy!

From Mushrooms

Then you let the rolls cool until they’re comfortable to the touch of CLEAN HANDS.

From Mushrooms

Yummy delicious rye and millet!

From Mushrooms

Shaken into single mycelium-colonized grains:

From Mushrooms

All inoculated in the convenient pre-formed inner well!

From Mushrooms

Now just rubber-band them up above the filter patch, so they can continue to get air from the environment, and you’re done.  The kits include all details about light and temperature requirements to get these to fruit. Not bad at all.

Yin-Yang Beans

Yin Yang beans

This year’s Strange dried bean – the Yin-Yang bean, so named as each black area has a white spot and each white area usually has one or more black spots. Some were quite awesomely decorated. The color usually developed quite nicely by the time the pod turned yellow, before it started to dry – so these would make pretty shelling beans. Reportedly, if you cook them in enough water the coloration will survive to the dinner table. I have not tested this yet, as I am still enjoying looking at them in their little bowl as I pass by…

Outdoor Mushroom Beds

I haven’t posted in a while as I have a bunch of current projects all currently in progress.

I did finally manage to finish one!

At the 2007 North Dakota State Horticultural Society meeting in Jamestown, I met Shirley and Joe Manning from Moorhead, who had great success growing shiitakes on oak logs. They shared their favorite spawn source, Field and Forest Products, and I finally picked up a catalog when I saw them again this year in Minot. I had been interested in the King Stropharia, or “Garden Giant” mushroom, since I had seen it discussed as an easy addition to home garden plots in Mycelium Running (if you are ever feeling a lack of inspiration about your gardening, this is the place to turn.)

So I ordered a sampler 15-square-foot pack of peg spawn — wooden dowels that have been inoculated with the stropharia mycelium. If you look at the ends of the pegs, you can see a whitish coating which signifies the mycelium is healthy and spread throughout the peg.

From Plant Pictures
From Plant Pictures

While these mushrooms prefer soft-hardwood chips, like maple or cottonwood, I (and North Dakota in general) are rather short on easily-sacrificeable trees. King Stropharia will also produce something on straw and white cedar bark chips, so I purchased a couple bags of chips and a bale of oat straw from a local garden center, and started with that. If the experiment is successful, the chips should be colonized with mycelium themselves and able to inoculate a new planting bed of their own next year, so I can spring for the maple chips offered in the catalog (if a local source has not presented itself. I must say I am starting to covet a woodchipper.)

I had a narrow unused shady space between my deck and the dog’s fence, so I laid out a 1×6′ bed of mixed cedar chips, oat straw and a shovelful of garden soil as recommended in the planting instructions. This does increase the chance of a local mycelium already present in the soil winning over the fancy-dancy imported variety – which is why it’s important to verify the variety before eating, even if it is a patch you’ve planted yourself – but it does aid in moisture retention.

From Plant Pictures

Patch Number 2 is a long strip behind the nascent raspberry patch. As part of the experiment, I left about one square foot in just straw, and did the rest in cedar chips. For additional protection from winter winds I covered the chips afterwards with a thick-to-thin layer of the additional straw you see piled on the sides. We’ll see which portion does best.

From Plant Pictures

Wow, it’s hard to take interesting pictures of a field of mulch.

My Lion’s Mane indoor sawdust kit was just about done producing, so I set that out into a bed as well. Lion’s Mane definitely prefer logs, with sawdust as a backup, which I don’t have. I did three small squares – one shredded cedar mulch with very fine particles, watered well to leach as much of the allelopathic constituents as possible, mixed evenly with sawdust from the kit, bottom left; one layered with mulch+sawdust, straw, mulch+sawdust, straw, top left; and one just straw, mixed evenly with the colonized sawdust, top right. I will be quite interested to see what these do come springtime.

From Plant Pictures

I just need to keep the beds moist but not soggy for the remaining few weeks till freezeup, and we should be good to go for fruiting next spring.

Off to the North Country Fiber Fair!