the black radish

This is a different radish (perhaps the sexiest of them all).

Elizabeth at Indian Line Farm grows these every year, and they store so well through the Fall that I find myself talking about them through both the November and December holiday markets. “Sell the black radishes!” She tells me.

This is no perky nipple of the Cherry Bell, no exotic dream of the French Breakfast. And although you might confuse it with that other maybe-new-to-you radish, the feminine and water-colored red meat or (also, less poetically) watermelon variety, this is entirely other.

The skin of the black radish is dark, a black-brown-green that tickles your skin like worn sand paper. Dark and woody as it seems to be, the inside is (as is the case with most things worth undressing) entirely different than its outside. Pull your knife through the large globe of it, and the ivory flesh supports the knife, not softly like a potato that has aged beyond its prime, but with earthy crispness, like something entirely alive. And even then, slicing off a wedge, and popping it in your mouth, it might seem a little dry. The spice starts quietly, and then builds, sometimes hot, hot! But the texture? A little dry, and ever so slightly reminiscent of a turnip (not this kind, but the mashable, broad-shouldered kind).

“What do I do with it?” people ask.

“Sprinkle it with salt. And drink it with beer.” Because it turns out there’s something about this radish that sings with beer. That’s the recipe I give. But for you, I’ll go into more detail:

Lay the slices on a plate, and then, from a height, let the salt fall. At first, you’ll just have radishes and salt. But then, the radish begins to open. And, like beads of sweat on an upper lip, the juice will emerge from the each slice, bathing the entire vegetable in its own sweet flavor.

Eat, with beer.





  1. says

    Beautiful post! I don’t think I’ve ever heard radishes described with so much care. I haven’t tried black radishes, but I’ll keep them in mind, especially now.

  2. Kat says

    Excellent! I’ll have to show this to my husband – I have a packet of black radish seeds to grow as part of next year’s winter storage and he is totally on the fence with the whole idea. I think the beer will push him in the right over the edge!

  3. says

    Love, love, love the pepper flavor of the black radish. And while I approve of eating them straight up with a bit of salt (and a beer), they’re also excellent shredded and added to slaw, or thinly sliced for sandwiches or tacos.

    I feel like they’re such simple food, yet a pretty amazing discovery for someone who can appreciate their peppery goodness.

  4. says

    The best way to eat a radish I say!!

    As part of our permaculture experiments this fall we planted a ton of daikons. They are doing their job with the soil, and my husband claims this is his new favorite radish (and the greens are wonderful) Haven’t tried the black radish yet, will have to add that to the seed list!

  5. Kristina says

    Thank you! Your posts this week here and on facebook have been keeping me sane. I’m in the middle of grad school finals and my fiance is in the middle of a huge protest at our state capitol that will effect his job greatly… which means my nerves are SHOT. Reading your posts and following those links has helped sooth me and ground me during this difficult week.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

    And congrats on the GoodReads awards. I can’t say how many people I flat out demanded buy the book! We love it at our house!

    • alana says

      Oh, good luck with the week, Kristina! I’ll be sending lots of good thoughts your way (and I’ll try to get another post out this week, too–just for you :) )

  6. says

    I picked up one at Sid Wainer’s last week (making a run for good olive oil), and forgot about it until I saw this…I hope it’s still nice and crisp!
    My copy of the book arrived yesterday, and I gotta’ say – it’s even better than expected. Glad I got 2, so my daughter can have one for Christmas!
    Thanks for all you do, and don’t stop doin’ it!

  7. says

    Alana this is, I must admit, serendipitous that you would write about black radishes. I have recently moved to France, and have since been seeing them in most markets I go into. I haven’t yet had the courage to buy one because not only did I not recognize the vegetable, I had no idea what the French name translated to. I keep picking them up, squeezing a little and taking a big sniff to try and figure out “what is this and what do I do with it?” So thank you for answering my unasked question – I will be buying a black radish next time I’m at the store, and I will eat it with beer because that sounds perfect, absolutely perfect.


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