Radishes: Dig into every size, shape and color of these versatile veggies

A Parade of Radishes 

by Peggy Paul Casella

This time of year, fresh-picked radishes are hard to miss at the farmers market, all piled up with their neon-colored tubers facing out. So if you’ve only ever thought of them as a garnish, now is your best chance to give these ancient brassicas a second look. Not only are they a great way to add color and flavor to your plate, but they are also rich in nutrients, containing good amounts of vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium, manganese and calcium. 

The spicy, golf-ball-size fuchsia spheres called cherry belle are the most common spring/summer radishes. French breakfast radishes are a close second, with their red-to-white ombré, oblong shape and milder flavor. Then there are the multicolored Easter eggs, neon-fleshed green meat and watermelon varieties, icicle radishes (aptly named), super-spicy black or Spanish radishes, and daikons the size of your forearm. Look for firm radishes without any wrinkling, soft spots or blemishes, and cut off the leaves before storing. The leaves can be prepared in the same way you would other dark cooking greens.   

USES: Roast, sauté or stir-fry. Pickle them. Shred them into slaws and other raw salads. Slice thinly and arrange them on buttered toast with a pinch of sea salt. Mince them for salsas or compound butters. Include them sliced or whole in crudité platters with creamy dip. Serve them raw, drizzled with honey and vinegar. Use their greens in pestos, gremolatas and chimichurris.  

Sautéed Radishes with Lemon and Chives
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 bunches spring radishes with their tops
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (or finely chopped scallions)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Directions:
Separate the greens from the radishes and roughly chop. Depending on their size, cut the radishes into wedges or halves. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When it stops foaming, add the radishes and salt and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender and browned in spots. Transfer the radishes to a serving platter and cover with foil. Do not wipe out the skillet.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter. Once the butter melts and stops foaming, add the chopped radish greens and sauté until wilted, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the greens to the serving platter with the radishes. Toss well.

Taste the radishes and greens and add more salt and a few grinds of pepper as desired. Squeeze the lemon juice over top and sprinkle on the chives and feta, if using. Serve warm.

Peggy Paul Casella is a cookbook editor, writer, urban vegetable gardener, produce peddler and author of the blog Thursday Night Pizza