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Nero Tondo Radish
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Nero Tondo radishes are medium to large-sized, round root vegetables measuring between 7 and 10 centimeters in diameter. The grow just beneath the ground and produce tall leafy greens. The enlarged roots have dark charcoal gray to black skins with a coarse dry texture and bitter flavor. The bright white to cream-colored flesh is pungent and has a firm, crisp texture. Nero Tondo radishes offer a spicy flavor with a bit of horseradish kick.
Nero Tondo radishes are available year-round with a peak season in the winter and early spring months.
Nero Tondo radishes are a unique variety of the winter radish also known as Spanish black radish. Botanically, they are classified as Raphanus sativus var. niger and are commonly referred to as Nero Tondo d’Inverno, which translates to “Black Round of Winter”. They are in the Brassica family, related to broccoli and kale, and are well-known for both their culinary and medicinal uses.
Nero Tondo radishes are a good source of vitamin C and is a source of B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber, potassium, copper and iron. They also contain smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Spanish Black radishes contain high amounts of beneficial compounds called glucosinolates, which give them a peppery flavor and provide immune-boosting, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. They also contain a unique phytochemical called MIBITC that works to stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the liver.
Nero Tondo radishes can be used raw or cooked. Wash and dry the roots before preparing. Shred or julienne them for raw slaws or to top green salads. Thinly slice, with the skin on and serve with raw fish, cured or smoked meats or fish. Pair with other varieties of radish for variations in color and bite. They can be roasted whole, with or without skins, or along with other root vegetables. Slice them into rounds and sauté them in oil or butter and finish with salt and pepper. Pickle them in apple cider vinegar to preserve them and tone down the heat. Store loosely wrapped, unwashed Nero Tondo radishes in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Ancient remains of black radishes were found in Egypt and shows they were cultivated as long ago as 2500 B.C.E. It is believed that Egyptian workers used Negro Tondo radishes as an expectorant to relieve coughing and phlegm during the construction of the pyramids. The old German reference ‘Herbal Medicine’ prescribed Spanish black radish as a treatment for issues related to the gallbladder, kidneys and digestion.
Nero Tondo radishes are native to the Eastern Mediterranean in what is now Greece and Turkey. The Greeks were believed to have introduced the root vegetable to the Egyptians, though some believe the root has its origins in the African country. It is likely that the Spanish helped spread the root to North and South America, India, and Southeast Asia. Nero Tondo radishes can grow in vastly diverse environments from the warm, tropical climate of Bali, to the cool, temperate climate of Ontario, Canada, and the dry deserts of Kuwait and Israel. They are found growing on nearly every continent on the planet save Antarctica and can be grown during most seasons of the year. Nero Tondo radishes are a rare sight at major grocery stores and are most likely spotted at local farmer’s markets or in backyard gardens.