radish greens

No Waste: Radish Green Pasta

As you may or may not know, I planted radishes for the first time this year. I've always liked them, but never grew them - and I think all of my excitement for this bright red taproot is seriously messing with my brain. I finally began to harvest some of the first sowing, and being the diligent, industrious person I am, I vowed that this would be the year that I will eat (and enjoy eating) radish greens. Last year, I tried to like them. I tried to pickle them in a slightly sweet vinegar solution. I tried to convince myself that they were good, but in fact I ended up ditching them every time. It seemed such a shame: the radish root is so lovely and crunchy and addicting, but the beautiful tops I just couldn't stomach. I recently read a post by Annie Wegner-Lefort in which she minced up the greens to add to a salad, and it was her example of zero waste that inspired me to do the same.

Radish greens are beginning to remind me of parsley. One summer when I was younger, I worked on an organic farm tucked into a dead-end road that led to the end of a bluff in southwestern Wisconsin. I started in the greenhouse in March, mixing potting soil and starting seeds while cursing my employer's belief that the plant pores opened up to this high-pitched "warbling" sound that they piped into the greenhouse and out into the fields. I'm not sure if it helped, but I disliked the constant noise in an otherwise idyllic setting. I still find it sad that the constant sound is etched more into my memory than the gorgeous surroundings...

It was a small farm and I was their only non-family help. We did everything by hand, the weeding of the parsley that year fell to me. I never really liked parsley, but had read how good it was for you. I had also read that you can make yourself like something if you try it enough. I swear that by the end of an 8 hour stretch of weeding parsley, I had an indescribable taste for it, and I still have it to this day. After a day of playing around with radish greens, I feel like I'm on my way to appreciation, if not full-out enjoyment of them. I made myself the most incredible lunch today, and it was inspired completely by using up the part of the radish that normally I just get rid of.

When I posted a picture of my radish harvest on my facebook page, Neil commented with a link to a fermented condiment called gundru. Made of radish greens and a being a condiment, it sounded right up my alley! I didn't have huge amounts to contend with, just the prolific tops to about 6 radishes. I figured it was worth a shot to mash them up.

I ran the greens through the food pro first, then started mashing them in a jar.

Gundru uses no salt or whey to preserve, just radish greens, the juice they create, a glass jar, and some sun. I have a few tablespoons sitting on the counter near the window for a week, but figured that I needed more instant gratification for the bitter green sludge that I was trying so hard to like. (I also wasn't quite sure I had enough liquid released from the greens to prevent them from rotting, and I was grinding away with a mortar and pestle for about a half hour.)

For some reason, the only thing I could think of (other than adding garlic and nuts and using it on pasta) was to turn it into some pasta. I have made pasta with flavorings before, but usually prefer not to. I think this is because I first started making pasta according to Marcella Hazan's expertise in Marcella Cucina, which includes that you flavor a sauce and not the noodle. I figured Marcella would agree with the spirit of adventure, and then my radish green pasta was born.

Radish Green Pasta
  • 1 c. AP flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • about 2 T. pureed radish greens
Make a well in your flour, I do this in a bowl, and add the eggs and pureed greens. Whisk with a fork, whisking in the flour a bit at a time until all of the liquid is incorporated and a dough begins to form. Transfer the ball of dough to a floured surface, and knead until it is smooth. Marcella says to knead for 8 minutes, but I don't do it that long. Wrap it in plastic, and let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour.

Roll out dough either by hand or machine. I roll with plenty of flour to make sure the dough doesn't tear as it rolls through. I also make sure there is an extra coating of flour on the last thinness of dough rolled (6 on my machine) before putting it through the cutters. This is more important with pasta dough that has any kind of herb or green added, since the little fibers in them can cause the dough to tear. (If it does tear, just fold it back up, and start over on the thickest setting; it may make it a tad tougher, but not noticeably so.)

When cooking fresh pasta, it really only needs to cook for 4-5 minutes. It will be floating, and should taste al dente.

Yesterday afternoon, I admired my celedon noodles hanging in the kitchen as the day progressed alternately with sun and rain. Tasting it raw, I couldn't even detect the bitter radish green - it just tasted eggy and fresh. Knowing that I couldn't expect my Husband who insists he doesn't like radishes to enjoy a dinner centered around their greens, I made myself a lunch of them instead. When he saw what I was eating (having just come in from work), and after I explained it, he said that I could make it for him for supper tonight. My Husband, eating radish green pasta with butter-sauteed radish "sauce"? You couldn't have sold me that idea 24 hours ago... but it is so amazing, I'd bet anyone would love it.

A flickr contact of mine, leedav, has been making all sorts of inspired "garden grub" that I have been amazed looking at. She has inspired me to look at my little backyard plot and make something with what grew there today, which turned out to be radish roots, green onions, Russian tarragon, lemon thyme. I sauteed all of that in a little bit of butter and olive oil (or maybe it was a lot of butter, I'll never tell), a sliced garlic clove, lots of black pepper and some coarse grey salt. I think this was the best Spring lunch I've ever had, and I ate it up in my messy kitchen, wishing I had gotten up in the middle of the night to make the bread so that I could have a thick slice of it fresh on the side.

I can't stop thinking about all of the people I don't really know, but I feel like I do. These Internet acquaintances inspire me daily to be better in the kitchen, in the garden, to make the most of my free time, and to focus on what is important in life. The busy people that have time to respond to emailed questions about recipes, to give little boosts of encouragements when I need them most. This pasta and sauce would not have happened without them, and I would not be nearly as happy as I am right now. Whenever I think that maybe the whole blogging thing is a waste of time, I am overwhelmingly reminded that is is not.