Could this be a solution to the wage crisis in 21st Century? Can’t afford a salary increase for your employees? Supplement their pay packets with seasonal food!
The radish has a colourful past, in addition to seemingly being force fed to the Egyptian Pyramid labourers, the Greeks had a special place in their hearts for them. I’ve been pondering why this small peppery vegetable was so revered by the ancient Greeks to cause them to fashion it in gold as an offering to Apollo. No lesser God you understand, but beautiful, perfectly proportioned Apollo, god of the sun, light, knowledge, music, art, poetry, oracles, medicine, archery etc. etc. I mean, come on...what was so special about a radish? Other roots – turnips and beets were only reproduced in silver or lead but not the radish – oh no, this root was special and craftsmen made little replicas in gold. I’ve searched and searched but nobody seems to know - obviously one of life’s mysteries.
Radishes do seem to have health giving properties, being used for purifying the blood, treating cardiovascular and respiratory problems and various digestive disorders in the past. I think you’d have to eat an awful lot of them though. Perhaps that’s why they became part of the salary of the ancient Egyptian labourers – salary with health benefits – what more could you want for a strong work force?
In Mexico they have a different take on the use of the radish, giving horti-culture a new meaning. In a town called Oaxaca, evidently full of talented sculptors, they have a festival on 23rd December called Noche de Los Rabanos. Just before Christmas their creative juices overflow, driving them to carve all manner of things from radishes. Historically it used to be nativity scenes but over the years it has evolved to more secular subjects. I remember as a child being shown how to cut a radish, drop it in iced water and wait for it to open to a (sort of) flower. My excitement was second to none and by the time I’d finished there were none left for my mother to simply slice into the salad. I of course thought my misshapen flowers were infinitely prettier than a mere slice.
Recently at a brunch in a Dubai hotel I saw amazing veggie sculptures amongst the plethora of food. On my return I googled vegetable carving and was totally bowled over by the images. I discovered Daniele Barresi (danielebarresi.net ) whose work is breathtaking. Italian by birth, he now lives in Australia and travels the world demonstrating his art. He famously said: When I touch my knife, my mind gives up to the heart and transmits directly to the hands, giving different forms to the decorations. It’s like magic. Magic indeed, and so fleeting! However that’s part of its appeal isn’t it – like fresh flowers from the garden. Capturing the beauty before decay starts. I value the flowers more because their beauty is so transient. Glimpses of glory can never be taken for granted. But I daresay a gold radish has its own charm and I'm sure Apollo appreciated it.