Long Black Spanish Radishes
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Long Black Spanish radishes are medium to large roots, averaging 17 to 20 centimeters in length, and have an elongated, cylindrical shape, slightly tapering at the non-stem end. The root’s surface is woody, rough, and coarse, reminiscent of the texture of sandpaper, and bears variegated black and dark brown hues. Underneath the skin, the flesh is bright white, firm, crisp, and slightly dry with a fibrous, dense consistency. Long Black Spanish radishes emit pungent, eye-watering fumes when sliced raw and contain an earthy, bitter, peppery, subtly acidic, and spicy taste that builds in intensity. The variety is known for having a sharper taste than other radish varieties, but when cooked, the crunchy flesh softens into a dense, potato-like texture, and the flavor mellows, developing subtly sweet peppery undertones.
Long Black Spanish radishes are available year-round, with a peak season in the fall through early spring.
Long Black Spanish radishes, botanically classified as Raphanus sativus var. niger, are a rare heirloom variety belonging to the Brassicaceae family. The cool-season cultivar was once one of the most widely grown radishes in Europe during the Middle Ages, highly favored for its extended storage capabilities, nutritional content, and cold-weather tolerance. Despite their widespread cultivation, Long Black Spanish radishes required a longer growing season and eventually faded from the spotlight, slowly removed from home gardens in favor of newer, milder, and faster-growing radish varieties. The roots almost disappeared from gardens entirely in the 20th century and were labeled as an old vegetable or heirloom variety. In the modern-day, there has been a revival among home gardeners to cultivate heirloom vegetables, reestablishing Long Black Spanish radishes as a favored specialty winter crop. The large radishes have also increased in popularity in Japan as a prized, rare root sourced from Europe. Long Black Spanish radishes are also known as Black Spanish, Noir Gros Long D’Hiver, Kurodaikon, and Winter radish, and are utilized for their spicy, nose-tingling flavor in both fresh and cooked applications.
Long Black Spanish radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and provide potassium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and B. The roots also contain glucosinolate, a phytonutrient that can boost digestion and liver detoxification. In Asian folk medicines, Long Black Spanish radishes are blended into a liquid and used topically as a natural remedy on the scalp to increase blood circulation.
Long Black Spanish radishes have a sharp, spicy flavor reminiscent of horseradish and are best suited for both raw and cooked applications. The skin is edible and contains most of the spicy, peppery flavor. It is up to the chef's discretion to leave the skin or remove it before serving, but if a milder taste is desired, it is recommended to peel the root before eating. Long Black Spanish radishes can be thinly sliced, chopped, or shredded and incorporated into salads, stirred into grain bowls, pressed into healthy juices, or minced into dips as a sweeter, horseradish substitute. Long Black Spanish radishes can also be ribboned and used as a decorative garnish over sushi, layered onto burgers, served with roasted meats, mixed with sour cream and used as a topping for potatoes, or whipped into filling for deviled eggs. In addition to fresh applications, Long Black Spanish radishes can be roasted, braised, boiled, baked, fried, and sauteed. The radishes can be sliced thin and fried into chips, diced and tossed into soups and stews, coated in batter and fried into tempura, shredded and pan-fried into a cake, or roasted in thicker slices and coated in butter. They can also be pickled for extended use and are sometimes utilized as a spicy element in kimchi. Long Black Spanish radishes pair well with carrots, potatoes, celery root, cauliflower, avocado, roasted meats such a steak and poultry, fish, herbs such as cilantro, chives, dill, and parsley, miso, and sesame seeds. Whole, unwashed Long Black Spanish radishes will keep 1 to 2 weeks when stored in a perforated plastic bag or wrapped in newspaper in the refrigerator.
In Germany, Long Black Spanish radishes are known as Schwarze Rettich and are a popular snack to accompany drinking beer during the cold winter season. The radishes are traditionally sliced and salted, eaten raw, or they are cut, soaked in a saltwater brine, and layered over buttered bread. Long Black Spanish radishes are most widely used in Bavaria, a southeast German state, which is also a popular travel destination for German residents. Bavaria encompasses the cities of Nuremberg and Munich, and in the mid to late fall, Munich hosts the largest Volksfest in the world, known as Oktoberfest. During Volksfest, beer gardens and tents are constructed to offer visitors a place to sit with family and friends to drink beer, eat, and listen to live music. Long Black Spanish radishes are used as a peppery, spicier alternative to the famous beer radish known as radi, and many Germans appreciate the zingy, strong flavor of the black radish mixed with the bitter, sour hops of the beer.
Long Black Spanish radishes were first cultivated in the Eastern Mediterranean and are believed to be a relative of the wild radish found in Eastern Europe and Asia. The thick, fibrous roots became well-adapted to cold, winter climates and spread throughout Northern and Western Europe and Eastern Asia. Black radishes became a favored variety in Europe and were highly valued for their extended storage capabilities and cold-weather seasonality. The roots were also introduced to the New World and were cultivated in home gardens by the 19th century. Over time, Long Black Spanish radishes faded from cultivation as new, milder, and softer radish varieties were developed, and the cultivar eventually became a mostly forgotten variety. Today Long Black Spanish radishes are rare, mainly grown in colder climates, and are found through farmer’s markets and specialty grocers worldwide. The roots are also grown on a smaller scale as a novel variety in home gardens.
Recipes that include Long Black Spanish Radishes. One is easiest, three is harder.