If you've been to the farmers market lately, you know that we are just about at peak season for spring vegetables — carrots, asparagus, spinach and cauliflower are abundant. Add to that list radishes, a standout this year. Have they always been such a brilliant red and with such luscious-looking greens? I've never been much for radishes, but I did buy a bunch because they looked so tempting. Their texture, taste and appearance have turned me into a fan.
It's not like these are scarce this time of year, like morels. Radishes are actually available all year long. While there are many varieties, the ones we see most often are the Red Globe. Nearly every vendor at the market has them. Then there are others, like Beauty Heart, with a white outside and pinkish inside. You might also see Easter egg radishes, a smaller variety of different colors (hence the name). These range in color from pink to white to dark red. Another variety are the elongated French breakfast radishes, which are mostly red, with a distinctive white at the bottom. You might come across Black radishes, with a dull-ish black exterior but bright white interior. Those are more peppery. Daikon radishes are a favorite in Asian dishes, and are also available all year.
There's a lot to love about this root vegetable. First, for beginning gardeners, they are easy to grow and can be replanted at least twice over the course of the growing season. From planting to harvest is about three weeks. With their crisp texture and mild, almost peppery taste, they are perfect for a quick, low-calorie, healthy snack (one radish has just 3 calories). They also make a great hors d'oeuvres, with salt on the side for dipping. Try them sliced thinly on a slice of buttered sourdough bread, a French favorite. They can add color and crunch to a salad. Radishes can also be sautéed, braised and stir-fried.
Generally, they are not peeled, but either left whole, sliced, diced or minced. When cooked, they really change. I've put a few sliced in the oven to roast the last half-hour alongside a chicken and also sautéed sliced radishes in butter (of course) with ramps and mushrooms as a side dish. Over-the-top delicious. If you're not a radish fan, this might convert you.
Another plus for radishes is that you can also use the green tops. Add them to soups or sauté them as you would beet greens. If you're not going to use them, cut the tops off before storing radishes and dispose of them. When using any variety, wash well and trim both ends. More good news: Radishes are a very healthy vegetable, not just low in calories, but packed with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, potassium and everything else good for you.
You might also be interested to know that radishes were prized by the ancient Greeks and common in Egypt long before the pyramids. We can thank Christopher Columbus for bringing them here. The word comes from the Latin "radix," meaning "root." Also interesting to know is that every Dec. 23, in Oaxaca, Mexico, there is a celebration of the radish, Noche de los Rabanos (Night of the Radish), where artisans carve Nativity scenes from very large radishes. I'll just eat them.
Sweet and Spicy Pickled Radishes
From the blog www.rebootedmom.com.
1 pound thinly sliced radishes
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, stem off, finely diced
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon mustard seed
Wash and dry radishes. Slice thin (use a mandolin, if you dare). Add to a bowl with cilantro and jalapeno. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Bring to a simmer, then take off heat and cool completely. Using a wide-mouth quart canning jar, pack to the top with the radish, cilantro and jalapeno mixture. Pack them tight. Sprinkle the mustard seeds and red pepper flakes on the top, then pour in the vinegar mixture. Add more vinegar if you think it needs it. Place lid and ring on tightly. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours, then refrigerate.. Use within 7-10 days. Great on tacos.
Buttered Radishes With Dill
About 3 bunches radishes
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup water
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or fresh parsley
Trim the tops off the radishes. Cut off the root at the base of each radish, and rinse radishes well. Cut each in half or quarters from top to bottom. Using a large skillet, season them with salt and pepper, then add the butter and water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook radishes until just tender, about 5-8 minutes. Take off lid, raise the heat, and boil to evaporate most of the liquid. Adjust seasonings, sprinkle the dill or parsley over them, and serve with the juices. A good side dish.
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.