Oyster Plant Root with Radish, Turnip and Ramson Vinaigrette

What I really like about my new local market(s) is that there are not only stalls specialized in e.g. potatoes, apples or fish, but also a lot of regional organic farmers selling their excellent seasonal produce. Local organic food has several advantages. For example no manufactured fertilizers or pesticides are used for growing the plants. This requires more attention and work from the farmer, which in the end really makes a difference in taste. Since the farms are located in a 50-100km radius around Berlin, the produce is absolutely regional. The offered range of produce is both limited and rich at the same time: limited due to seasonality, and rich due to cultivating old species and a wide range of varieties.

I’ve encountered the oyster plant roots at one of these organic farmer’s market stalls. This vegetable looks like a really hairy, dirty and thin root. Because it is so thin, I only removed the root hairs and carefully scraped the surface of the roots using a relatively dull knife. The scraped surface of the root tends to turn brown quickly, so it’s advised to boil or steam the roots right after peeling them. I would not recommend this root to be served raw, since it has a slightly bitter taste. Its raw taste also reminded me of liquorice. During cooking the bitter taste evaporates, so when heated the oyster plant root tastes like a mixture of black salsify and corn. In this current dish I paired the oyster plant root with turnip, black spanish and radish.

Oyster Plant Root with Radish, Turnip and Ramson Vinaigrette

Since I like to utilize all edible parts of a plant, I prepared a pesto from the turnip and radish greens, which served as a kind of a bed for the vegetables on the plate. Both radish roots and their leaves work perfectly with sunflower seeds, so I replaced the classic pine nuts with sunflower seeds and good quality sunflower oil. A garlic clove might have been too intense for this pesto, so I used the green stem of a fresh garlic bulb. Additionally, I blanched all greens to prevent my pesto from turning brown.

For plating the dish I used a few purslane leaves as decoration, which I sourced from the same organic farmer at the market. Both the oyster plant root and the radishes were quite sweet, so I balanced them with a slightly spicy ramson vinaigrette. The vinaigrette also helped to brighten the flavors and balance the oil and the butter. Instead of butter, the vegetables can be prepared using vegetable oil (e.g. rapeseed or sunflower oil) as well. The dish also works well as a side for grilled or confit char or trout.