Yesterday afternoon I was casting about the garden for enough greens for pasta. I had pitifully little broccoli rabe left- it was the absolute end of it. I picked several arugula plants that were bolting. The Lacinto kale wasn't quite ready, but I cut a few leaves of that anyway, as well as one of the Russian kale that is even younger. The beets and turnips were out of the question because they're still too young as well, and I'm growing them for their roots, too. It really didn't look like it was going to be enough. I let my eyes wandered the planter boxes until their gaze was arrested by the sight of the radishes at the far end of one of the boxes. I wondered: could radish leaves be edible? They look kind of like turnip greens.
Looking at radishes in a whole new light
Well, it turns out that radish greens are edible. The University of Illinois Extension Service has a page that also lists the best varieties to grown during which season, which is useful. The Cook's Thesaurus, which is just a cool site in general, lists them as edible, along with a bunch of other greens I bet you haven't heard of. Me neither.
But before you run off to go see what else you can browse on in your garden, let me caution you against carrot tops. Some sources out there say that carrots are edible, which is not quite true. Even Wikipedia indicates that they are edible, but not normally eaten by humans. They're certainly bitter. Carrot tops contain alkaloids, whose affects include slightly elevated alertness, as well as slightly elevated heart rates and blood pressure to very elevated heart rates and blood pressure, to death, if enough is ingested. Carrots belong to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, which include, among other edibles, angelica, anise, caraway, celery, chervil, cicely, coriander/cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, parsley and parsnip. It also includes Queen Anne's Lace, and the not so edible poison hemlock and water hemlock. I think that with this family, I'd rather stick to the parts of the plants that centuries of other people's experiments have deemed edible and safe. Call me chicken; I'm really okay with that.
But I am really glad to know that radish greens are edible. I'm not sure that I'd go out of my way to try and save the greens that come on top of supermarket radishes; some of those are quite ready for the compost bin by the time I get to them. But as a vegetable that you can get a lot of use from, radishes now get to join beets and turnips, vegetables whose greens and roots I enjoy equally as well. And if you think you don't have enough room to grow your own, surely you can find room for a pot of them? They're easy to grow (as long as you don't try it in clay soil- trust me on this) and the spring varieties only take three weeks. Not exactly instant gratification, but pretty darn close in the gardening world.
So- many parts are edible. Who knew? I bet Euell Gibbons did. I just wish he'd told us lot earlier.