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A New Year’s Radolution

By Beet 2022 01 January

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!

Seed sources:

Long Scarlet radishes may be named Cincinnati Market radishes in some seed catalogs.

Pine Tree Garden Seeds 

Listed under the name Cincinnati Market radish. 

Urban Farmer

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. 

Serve immediately.  About 6-8 servings

Plummeting Through Autumn

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Although we’re finally far from those scorching, smoke-hazed summer days, they were “Plum Good” ones for the Elephant Heart plum. Named for its oblong fruit reminiscent of a heart, its meat is sublimely sweet, succulent, and red as the richest Burgundy wine.  However, given their tenderness, you’ll likely never see or savor one unless it’s from your own tree.

Fortunately for us gardeners, this plum grows wonderfully in the home garden.  Although partially self-fertile, if you have the space, it produces even more if planted near (within 50 ft) a Santa Rosa variety pollinator plum.  

The Elephant Heart plum is a member of the Rosaceae family, as is an apricot. Both are in the Prunus genus, where their shoots have a terminal bud and side buds are solitary, not clustered as with others. Flowers grow in clusters up to five together on short stems and fruits have a groove down one side and a smooth stone.


Luther Burbank, who was instrumental in developing many plum varieties, created a gift for us with the development of the Elephant Heart plum in 1929. 

The Elephant Heart, or simply elephant or blood plum, is not only a very decorative specimen tree but produces one of the most striking and deliciously-flavored plums to be had.

The fruit of the plum is also a drupe, meaning it has an outer fleshy part (exocarp or skin and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounding a pit (or stone) with a seed inside. The true characteristic that defines a drupe is its hard lignified stone derived from the ovary wall of its flower.

The plums can be up to 7”-8” across, have freestone pits and have been nicknamed “blood oranges” for their luscious, richly red meat. Sliced or wedged displays on platters, or atop salads or other dishes, Elephant Hearts make a real showstopper along with the brilliant autumn leaves. They store remarkably well, so your late August-September harvest should last several months if stored in the fridge.

One of these heirloom plums will thrive if you have a sunny, well-drained spot to plant a tree in. A variety with a dwarf rootstock is available (see below). With diligent pruning, you’ll be rewarded bountifully each year. 

So, why not plant a tree of your own to pluck from it an impossible-to-find-elsewhere Elephant Heart plum?

A Bit of Trivia

Did you know?

  • Plums can be as small as a cherry or up to 3” in diameter. The Owen T cultivar is considered the largest, at 3” in diameter. For comparison, a U.S. baseball is up to 9” in diameter.
  • Plums grow on every continent except Antarctica. 
  • There were tart-tasting native plums in North America when the first European settlers arrived,
  • Plum remains have been found in Neolithic age archaeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs. 

Sources for Elephant Heart Plum trees:

One Green World

They have very good stock in a number of sizes.

The author of this article has been using them for over 20 yrs.


Plummily Colossal Crumble

Preheat oven to 350°F and oil bottom and sides of a 9” square baking pan

Crumble mix:

1 cup white whole wheat flour (or gluten free alternative)

½ cup oat flour

1½ cups regular rolled oats (not instant)

½ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

2/3 cup organic brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon each ground allspice and nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into the dry ingredients and mix with hands until topping begins to clump together.

Fruit filling:

½ cup organic sugar

2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (or gluten free flour)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 cups plums (about 8-10) washed and each cut in to 6 wedges.

2 tablespoons organic honey

zest and 2 tablespoons of juice from one organic lemon

Mix together dry ingredients.  Add plums, lemon zest and juice, and fold gently together until well-coated.

Spread fruit in prepared pan then cover with topping.  Bake on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes until bubbly and top is browned.  Serve warm with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt or ice cream.  Makes about 8 servings.


By Beet 2021 09 September

Are you hoping to be a winner?  Then Allium cepa var. ascalonicum, is the ticket!


Of course, this particular “ticket,” rarely to be had at any market, is the classic shallot.

Why bother with this rather small prize of a bulb when you can have a heftier onion trophy?  Because, shallots are the real treasure among alliums, which include regular drying onions, ramps, garlic (and their scapes), scallions, leeks and bunching onions.


Ever heard of good things coming in small packages? It’s definitely true here since shallots trump the onion in many ways. To start with, they’re more delicately mild and sweet-flavored, with a hint of caramel and a touch of garlicky piquancy.


Shallots are also winners with their richness in fiber, vitamins A, B6, and C, potassium, folate, manganese and antioxidants (which are released when bulbs are sliced or crushed).


Although cultivated for thousands of years, today they’ve become a rather unknown treasure just waiting to be rediscovered.


Most likely originating in Southeast Asia, they spread throughout India and the Mediterranean region.  Noted in Greek history and literature, they were further transported through trading and general crop movements.


So why are shallots such a treasure?  If you’ve never had the pleasure of sampling one, you’re in for a real treat.


Although on the outside shallots may appear like an onion, if you cut one open, you’ll discover that instead of rings like onions, they’re composed of several cloves similar to garlic.


Aside from milder flavor, its texture, form and unique aroma make it a “favorites” winner for a diverse number of dishes.  You can use the bulbs, cook the leaves as a vegetable, add it to salads, pickle it, shave it raw, or even top your presentation with some shallot flowers.


Similar to garlic, shallots should be planted in autumn in our area.  Bulbs, not seeds, are the only way to receive your “prize” of cloves. Order bulbs as early as possible this month.


Shallots prefer a rich, moist soil that’s somewhat sandy, but they will grow in many soil types as long as they’re fertile and well-drained.


Break bulbs apart into individual cloves (like garlic) planting each one 6-8” apart with the root end down (points up, please!), then cover with more composted soil.  Leave about one-third of bulb tops exposed.  Sprinkle the soil surface generously with fine ashes so any fungus thieves won’t steal away your prize.


Keep lightly moistened by watering until rain (pray it comes this autumn) arrives.


Similar to garlic, shallots’ early leaves will die back in winter only to resprout in early spring when bulbs start forming.


Adding nitrogen-rich fertilizer will enhance your growing treasure, as will frequent watering.


In about 90-120 days when leaves have dried, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing jackpot.  After curing in a shaded, well-ventilated area for a couple weeks, they’ll be ready for you to savor. Your very own shallottery!



Did you know?

It takes 18 pounds of fresh shallots to make one pound dried?

In the US, shallots are also referred to as scallions, bunching, or spring onions, but of course they are all very different bulbs.

Some Asian cultures deep fry shallots as a condiment.

Shallot Sources:

Territorial Seeds

Dixondale Farms

Hudson Valley Seed Co

French gray shallot

Gardens Alive


Golden Caramelized Shallots

2 pounds whole shallots peeled (place in boiling water for 1 minute for skins to slip easily off)

2 tablespoons cooking-type olive oil

3 tablespoons honey, good maple syrup or agave nectar

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (black may be used but is stronger)

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary finely minced

Zest of one organic lemon

Preheat oven to 400°.

In heavy ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil until hot.  Add shallots and honey, stirring until shallots begin to brown.  Add in vinegar, salt and pepper, then stir until shallots are well coated.  

Sprinkle the rosemary over the shallots and roast in oven about 20-30 minutes until caramelized.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon zest and serve as a side dish, a topping for meats, poultry, or seafood, or serve warm or chilled for salad.  Also great on a sandwich as a gourmet relish.