This recipe came out of my desire for a ferment that welcomed spring. I wanted cool and crisp flavors, and fancied a ferment that was light in both taste and color, complementing the light-pink and white blossoms of spring.
Red radishes are quick-growing in cool temperatures (they’re one of the earliest available local vegetables in a temperate climate), and they’re a food we should be eating to help our bodies come out of winter. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, radishes are a wonderful tonic for the liver and gallbladder. Radishes are believed to break up fat and phlegm, and regulate bile flow — in a sense, consuming radishes gets your juices going.
This ferment is unpretentious. I chose the light and aromatic flavor of fresh fennel to complement the more watery, spicy radish. Nutritionally, fennel is great for digestion. It’s also rich in vitamin K2, which is important in your diet if you’re taking oral vitamin D.
Very simple to make, this ferment can be enjoyed in as few as 3 to 4 days. It’s tasty sprinkled on a green salad or alongside protein-rich foods, such as hard-boiled eggs. Yield: 1 pint.
- 1 bunch small radishes, such as ‘Cherry Belle’ or ‘French Breakfast,’ stems removed
- 1 medium fresh fennel bulb
- 1-1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- Using the slicing blade on a hand grater or food processor, slice the radishes very thin, place them in a large bowl, and set them aside. Cut the thick root end off the fennel bulb, and slice the bulb as thinly as possible; add to the same bowl as the radishes. Chop any fennel fronds, and add them to the bowl as well. Set aside the thick fennel stalks for another purpose.
- Add the salt slowly to the large bowl containing the radishes and fennel. Massage it in, and taste the mixture after about half the salt has been added. Keep adding salt until you can just detect it, but it doesn’t dominate the flavor.
- This dish will produce plenty of brine without much time or effort. Pack the mixture into your favorite fermentation vessel or, alternatively, a quart-sized jar. Make sure all the vegetables are submerged beneath the brine by adding fermentation weights if you have them. Allow to ripen for 3 to 4 days in a cool, out-of-the way spot on your kitchen counter.
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Kirsten K. Shockey is the co-author of Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments. Kirsten and her husband began fermenting foods 20 years ago on their 40-acre smallholding, which grew into an organic food company. Read more at FermentWorks. Kirsten is on the editorial board of Mother Earth News’ new sister publication, Fermentation.