Spicy, crunchy and sometimes sweet, radishes always delight
by Anna Herman
Among the easiest of local crops to get to market—and the fastest crop to grow from seed—radishes are edible as a sprout, as a seedling and at maturity. They can be eaten out of hand, sliced into salads, are great pickled, sautéed roasted or grilled.
As a gardener, I tend to plant radishes mixed in with the seeds of many slow-to-germinate crops. The radish seeds come up in a few days marking the row in the garden bed, and are ready to harvest weeks before the carrots or beans they were planted alongside, giving me two-for-one in a small garden space. The surfeit of radishes with this planting plan means incorporating radishes into many meals. With varieties as varied as French breakfast, cherry belle, watermelon and German giant, there is no shortage of radishes to explore.
I find radishes are underappreciated and much maligned, so I’m happy to share some favorite ways to enjoy this harbinger of spring.
1. Go French. The piquancy of radishes marries well with creamy butter and a little salt, and this pairing is a classic French presentation paired with cocktails.
Pile a bunch of clean French breakfast or other smallish mild radishes—greens attached, roots trimmed—on a plate or cutting board. Accompany with soft, creamy butter and a small pile or ramekin filled with flakey sea salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel. You then simply swipe your radish through the butter, sprinkle with a bit of salt and, voila!
Alternatively, slice the radishes, mince a few of the radish greens and then blendthem into the butter. Spread the butter on top of a fresh sliced baguette or whole wheat toast.
You can also layer radishes on top for even more color and crunch. Finally, sprinkle the entire creation with the sea salt of your choice or allow your guests to add salt to taste.
2. Get cheesy. Watermelon radishes—sized somewhere between a golf ball and baseball—are so named because their pale green exterior encloses a dark pink center. Once a rarity, they are now common at farmers markets, food co-ops, and among the local produce in your CSA.
Wedges and slices do indeed resemble miniature watermelons. Crispy and a bit spicy, they pair well with a strong blue cheese. You can try well-known varieties such as Roquefort, Stilton, Bleu D’Auvergne or Gorgonzola, or choose from lesser-known cheeses such as Danish Saga.
Alternatively, serve wedges alongside your favorite blue cheese dip, or slice the radishes into rounds and crumble some mild blue in the center of each slice.
Since we’re talking about cocktails and bites, don’t forget some playful and tasty garnish. Try pairing your radishes with thinly sliced cucumber, shaved celery or even a few toasted walnuts.
3. Get back to roots. Less common, surprisingly, is using radishes as you might other root vegetables. They are in the same family as turnips (and broccoli, for that matter), and especially the little multicolored orbs of “easter egg” or red radishes can be roasted, grilled or sautéed whole, halved or sliced. The colors will fade slightly, and a sweetness will overlay any spiciness once radishes hit heat. This dish, a spring favorite, is savory and piquant, mild and green. Very spring!
Blanche a bunch or two of cleaned, trimmed radishes quickly in boiling salt water. Drain the radishes, and add a few tablespoons of butter into a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Let sizzle, add the radishes and let both brown, stirring occasionally. Then add the coarsely chopped clean radish greens (but only if they were in good shape). Zest a lemon over top, season well with salt and fresh ground pepper, and squeeze half the lemon over the pan just before serving.