Try different radishes for variety in colors and flavors

June 10, 2022

Last week, we spent an idyllic time at a guest house near the Russian River in Sonoma County, California, touring wineries, hiking the redwood forest, enjoying gourmet meals and visiting local famers markets. The first market of the week was set up along the edge of a library parking lot in the charming town of Windsor. Besides traditional offerings of produce, there were also crafts, a creperie and a tamale food truck.

Of course, since we were in California, the available produce was a surprise to my Delaware sensibilities. They already had perfectly ripe white and yellow peaches, apricots and nectarines. My first purchase was a bunch of the adorable radishes in the photo. Just as expected, the first bite delivered spicy hints and satisfying crunch.

By way of definition, radishes are an edible root originally domesticated in Europe. In Latin, its name is radix, meaning root, while its genus in Greek, “Raphanus” or “quickly appearing,” refers to its speedy germination. When we were in grammar school, early science experiments often included sprouting radish seeds on a strip of damp paper towel.

Radishes come in an array of colors – purple, red, white and black – with a juicy texture and flavor ranging from faintly sweet to very sharp. They can be round or long and cylindrical with bright-white flesh. The best radishes will be plump and firm, with a slender “tail” and leaves still attached. And, if those leaves are wilted, expect the radishes to be mealy compared to those with fresh, springy leaves.

Years ago, recipes instructed the cook to cut off the tops and discard them; now we know to add these spicy greens to the salad mix or stir fry. Once you get your radishes home, be prepared to have those greens wilt almost immediately if you put them in the refrigerator. The better storage approach is to separate them from the root, store the leaves like any other salad greens and eat them within a day or two.

I’ve included a recipe for roasting radishes along with their greens. The bulb loses its crunchy texture and sharp bite, tasting more like its sweeter cousin, the turnip. Meanwhile, the greens, thick enough to crisp, do a wonderful job of delivering the signature sweetness from a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.

Since the radish has always had a place as a salad vegetable, the two versions of radish salad give it center stage. One includes bright flavors of citrus and mint; the other combines radishes and snipped chives with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Of course, sliced or julienned radish makes a colorful addition to any tossed salad.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy spring radishes is on an open-faced sandwich – thin slices of baguette spread with unsalted butter and topped with paper-thin radish slices (consider using a mandolin). Sprinkle a bit of sea salt and scatter with chives for a delicious combination of flavors – crunchy, salty, sharp and sweet.

Radish Sandwich

8 thin slices of baguette
1 bunch radishes
2 T unsalted butter, softened
1 t sea salt
snipped chives

Wash radishes and trim off stringy roots. Cut off greens and reserve for another dish. With a mandolin, slice the radishes as thin as possible (taking care not to slice your finger). Spread butter in an even layer on each slice of bread. Arrange radishes in an overlapping pattern across the butter. Sprinkle with sea salt and chives. Yield: 4 appetizer servings.

Roasted Radishes

1 bunch of radishes
2 T olive oil
2 t Balsamic vinegar
1/2 t sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash radishes and trim off stringy roots. Cut off greens and remove stems, retaining leaves. Whisk together oil and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Add radishes and greens, tossing to combine. Spread radishes and greens on a baking pan. Bake until the greens are crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the greens to a serving plate and continue roasting the radishes until tender, about another 5 minutes. Yield: 2 servings.

Citrus Radish Salad

12 radishes
1 T sea salt
2 T lime juice
1 T orange juice
1 T chopped mint
salt & pepper, to taste

Wash and trim the radishes. Sprinkle radishes with salt and place in a bowl with just enough water to cover. After 15 minutes, drain and rinse the radishes. Leave whole if small, or slice radishes in half or quarter, if very large. Whisk together juices and mint in a serving bowl. Add radishes and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Yield: 2 to 4 servings.

Radish Salad

2 bunches radishes
1 T olive oil
1 T snipped chives
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
sea salt, to taste

Rinse and trim the radishes. Discard the stems; blot dry the tender greens and arrange them on a serving plate. Slice radishes in half (quarter, if very large) and place in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add chives and toss to combine. Scatter radishes across the greens and shave the cheese over the top. Season to taste with salt. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.



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