I hope that the slower days of winter have been relaxing and cozy and that plenty of time was spent with family and loved ones over the holidays.
With my family, I have recently enjoyed the first outings into the snowy winter wonderlands of southwestern Oregon and with the solstice, I got to thinking about which plants have been historically significant around the time of solstice.Some of this information was featured in my column for the January 2019 Garden Beet column.
The spruce and fir forests are some of my favorite places in southwestern Oregon.Sacred trees of the winter solstice to cultures in the northern hemisphere include oak, yew, silver fir, birch, and pine.
Yew represents death of the old year, while silver fir represents the new year and rebirth. Birch also symbolizes new beginnings.Pines are for peace, healing, and joy; conifers in general were a symbol of the continuity of life and prosperity.Oak symbolizes eternal life, protection, and strength, and was the traditional type of tree used as a yule log.Yule logs were burned for 12 days, and their ashes were scattered afterwards over fields for health and a bountiful harvest.
Perhaps the most interesting botanical story around the winter solstice (in my opinion) and Christmas is that of the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushroom.This Old World mushroom is thought to be the foundation of the story of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.
In northern Europe and Asia, this fungi typically appears underneath firs and spruce in the days leading up to the winter solstice.Shamans from these regions would dress in special red garments trimmed with white fur and black boots (sound familiar?) to collect these mushrooms.Upon returning to the village, they would enter their yurts through the smoke hole, as this was the portal to the spirit world.When the mushrooms were ingested, one’s face would flush (think rosy cheeks and noses) and gave a sense of well-being, visions, and even the feeling of flying, as the Sami (Laplander) people would say when riding on their sleighs with reindeer.The reindeer from these northern regions even have a documented taste for the fungi.In addition to being shared as gifts, dried fly agaric mushrooms were historically strung with popcorn and cranberries as mid-winter decorations. Depending on how these mushrooms are cooked, they can impart some hallucinogenic side effects.
With the winter solstice past, enjoy the coming longer days and continued beauty of winter!
Hi JCMGA members, this is your message for January from your President Elect.
I was told an article for the GardenBeet was due by December 17 and during this transition period from one president to another, I am trying to do as I am told.Hopefully there was no miscommunication and you won’t get two presidential messages.If so, enjoy!
Lynn Kunstman was “reelin’ in the year” in her December article, so I am going to stick with the fishing metaphor and am “casting out the bait,” attempting to catch some lucky breaks for us in 2022.We all know that luck favors the busy go-getters and since we all fall into that category, we can be hopeful and look forward to great things in 2022.
To get the ball rolling:Please don’t neglect to renew your membership. Please go to the JCMGA website, membership renewal page.
This year, why not resolve to try and bear your cross by sowing seed for Raphanus sativus?Even if you fall short,the heirloom Long Scarlet radish that grows 5 to 7 inches long on a thin root will bear one for you.
Radishes belong to the family Brassicaceae, along with mustards and cabbages. Cruciferae is another name for this important family and means “cross-bearing.” All maturing plants in the cabbage family have flowers composed of four petals that are reminiscent of a lovely white cross when blooming.
Radishes have been doing their part by providing sustenance for thousands of years since originating in China. Gradually spreading westward, they became important foodstuff for the Greeks and Romans. They were extensively cultivated in Egypt during the Pharaohs’ reigns and were consumed there before the pyramids were constructed.
Radishes were first documented in Europe in Germany in the 13th century. They were cultivated in England by 1548, Mexico in 1565, and finally made their way to Massachusetts in 1629.
Today, radishes are readily propagated just about anywhere and in nearly every US state. The Brassicaceae family (including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, mustard and radishes) is of great economic importance, providing much of the world’s winter vegetables.
Fresh radishes contain rich sources of ascorbic and folic acids, potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium.
Their compact, pungent leaves can also be consumed (bet you hadn’t thought of that) by adding them to soups, sautéing them with olive oil and garlic, steaming them as a side dish or snipping some directly into your salad. Delicious! Move over arugula!
As for our featured star, the Long Scarlet radish, its tapered shape is similar to a carrot with a curved shoulder and distinct pointy tip.
The root’s vibrant, scarlet-pink skin is very thin. The interior flesh is brilliant white, crisp and slightly sweet with a milder, peppery bite than most other radishes.
Unfortunately, for quite a long time, heirloom radishes were nearly replaced by the more familiar common round red radish. Seed for the Long Scarlet radish can again be found in select specialty seed catalogs. Fortunately, someone reintroduced these seeds so we might again sow them in our own backyard gardens.
When those early birds get their worms, you’ll soon have your first Long Scarlet radishes if you sowed them in early spring. When well-fertilized and provided with plenty of moisture, you could have your first taste in as little as three weeks!
Sowing directly in a fully sunny spot that’s loamy (add sand if compact) and well-composted is definitely the key for exceptional radish roots. They’ll be sweeter and most tender the more rapidly they grow.
So, plan for that New Year’s cross-bearing with a Long Scarlet radish radolution!
Long Scarlet radishes may be named Cincinnati Market radishes in some seed catalogs.
Has both Cincinnati Market and Long Scarlet Cincinnati Organic seeds.
Long Scarlet Radish Slaw
2 cups coarsely shredded radishes
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup tart apple cut in fine julienne strips
½ cup chopped toasted almonds or walnuts
3 tablespoons organic honey or agave nectar
¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Mix slaw ingredients in a large bowl or 2-gallon zip type bag.Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until mixed.Pour over slaw and gently toss, or if using bag, close zip and gently flip bag over several times with hands until everything is mixed.