Just think, gardeners… in less than three weeks we will be having the shortest day of the year, and then the days will be starting to get longer! So far we have been very lucky with the weather: remember last year at this time, we had a huge amount of snow! That was a very long winter, wasn’t it. But we’ll soon be on the brighter side of the season!
I’d just like to take a moment to thank Liz Jones for organizing the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society’s AGM/Christmas meeting, and thank you to everyone who helped in any way, whether by bringing items for the silent auction, buying items from the silent auction, or being there to be part of the festivities! It was great fun! Thank you to Vicky and John Ostrowercha who shared their Florida holiday pictures with us, and to Keith Hayward who shared our Mediterranean holiday memories with the group. What fun to “see the sights”! And, congratulations to the new executive: we know you will all do a wonderful job!
I was thinking about all the many plants that are associated with Christmas: the Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, spruce branches, poinsettia, and there are many more. But I read about something that we rarely connect with Christmas, and that’s radishes! In the past, the only memory I have of radishes at Christmas time would be the crunchy, fresh radishes that Mom would also set out with celery sticks and olives to accompany our holiday meals. Being the wonderful (and organized!) cook that she was, Mom would make strategic slices in the radishes hours before the meal, throw the radishes in a bowl of icy water, and they would become appetizing radish blossoms, very pretty on the plate.
But there is more to radishes at Christmas! In Mexico, La Noche de Rabanos is a special holiday celebrated on December 23. How did it begin? About four hundred or so years ago, when the Spanish brought radishes to Mexico, Dominican monks there began planting gardens for the community of what is now Oaxaca. The monks encouraged the local people to become adventurous gardeners and try the new seeds, and one of them had the innovative idea of carving the radishes into interesting shapes on market day to encourage customers to come and buy. Just as we buy all kinds of special groceries before Christmas, it was probably no different back then, because there was a special market day on December 23, and this is where the carved radishes went on display. The tradition began.
But in 1897, the mayor of Oaxaca (I think he must have been a gardener himself!) took the market and the tradition one step further by encouraging a special horticulture exhibit with a Christmas theme. And it continues to this day. So, later in December, the special radishes (which are super-fertilized and grown only for the purpose of carving ) will be harvested, and given to interested artists in the area who will carve them into shapes and designs for the big competition on the 23rd. These aren’t the “Cherry Belle” radishes we grow in our gardens, though; these are radishes that grow to almost two feet long and can weigh almost ten pounds! Who knew? The next time we buy radishes, we’ll think of our gardening friends in Mexico who are gearing up for their unique horticultural exhibition.
I always find it fascinating to think about those long ago times, and people bravely going off to new lands; it’s amazing that they always thought to bring seeds from home with them. Maybe it was partly nostalgia for home, partly thinking ahead to the future, but either way, the world wouldn’t be the same if they hadn’t done it!
Have a great week, gardeners!