Radishes are such pretty little jewels but they are really an under appreciated vegetable. Usually, you see them raw in salads and that’s a delicious way to eat them but there is so much more you can do with radishes. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes and they can be cooked like other root veggies. Low in calories and high in nutrition, radishes and their leaves are great choices to add to your spring menu. Sure, throw them in your salads but read on to learn all about radishes, how to buy them, and how to cook with them.
1. Radishes 101
Radishes are edible root vegetables that are members of the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family. The root is related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and horseradish (and wasabi), among others. Radishes got their name from the ancient Greeks because of how fast they grow; they are usually one of the first spring veggies to appear at farmers’ markets.
There are winter radishes and spring/summer radishes. Winter radishes have a higher water content and milder flavor. Spring and summer radishes have less water and more intense flavors. They come in many sizes, shapes and colors including red, pink, white, yellow, and even black. They can be little round veggies or elongated like carrots.
Radishes have a high water content and practically no fat. Radishes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, potassium, fiber, folate, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Radishes also have both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Their high water content makes them natural diuretics.
3. Selection, Storage and Prep
Radishes are available year-round in supermarkets, but the round ones peak in spring and the elongated ones more towards summer. Choose radishes that are firm with smooth skins. The greens should be bright and not wilted. If the leaves are wilted, don’t buy those radishes.
As soon as you get them home, chop off the greens. The greens are edible with a mild peppery flavor. They need to be used right away as they wilt quickly. They can be eaten raw or cooked like any other greens. Store the radishes in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge for up to a week. If they start to get spongy, you can perk them back up by putting them in ice water for a bit. When you’re ready to use the radishes, scrub them clean and trim the ends.
4. Raw Radishes
There are so many ways to cook with radishes though their flavor and texture are also delicious raw. Slice them and add them to salads for crunchy texture and spicy flavor as in this Kale Caesar Pesto Salad and the salad served along with these Spring Veggie Farro Fritters. Raw fritters are also great for adding crunch to sandwiches, wraps, and pitas like these Spicy Spring Garden Pitas. Add a few thin slices on top as in these Spring Pea Toasts with Radish and Lavender for a lovely, colorful dish.
5. Pickled Radishes
When veggies are pickled or fermented, they get a tart flavor that adds an exciting touch to dishes. Plus, these foods are super-healthy for us and our digestive systems. Read How Fermented Foods Can Help Your Microbiome and Digestion and How to Add More Pickled Foods to Your Diet. Pickling also lets you enjoy foods when their peak season has past. See Preserving The Season: What Foods You Should Pickle And How To Do It to learn more.
This recipe for Spicy Pickled Radishes provides two ways to pickle radishes: the fast way and the fermented way. Their intense flavor will stand out in any dish and after you try homemade, no store-bought pickle will be able to compare. Enjoy these pickled radishes with everything, from sandwiches and burgers, to salads and power bowls. To add some ethnic flavor, try this Indian Radish Pickle that has lots of Bengali spices and these Mexican-Style Pickled Veggies with jalapenos, black peppercorns, and oregano.
6. Ways to Cook With Radishes
When radishes are cooked, their spicy flavor mellows out a bit and they go from being crunchy to tender and juicy. One way I cook radishes is to pan-fry them along with sliced red potatoes. They look identical and once they’re cooked, they almost taste the same so you get a side dish that’s lighter than if it were just potatoes. My favorite way to eat radishes is to sauté them until they are caramelized. To make Caramelized Radishes: Trim 10-12 radishes and cut them into quarters (or halves if they are small). Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the radishes and cook for 5 minutes. You want the radishes to get tender but maintain their crunch. Add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 teaspoon dried thyme to the radishes and toss. Standing back from the pan, add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and ½ teaspoon sugar to the pan. Add salt and pepper according to your taste. Cook the radishes until they are golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Any veggie tastes delicious when it’s roasted. The caramelization makes them sweeter and their flavors get intense. To roast radishes, simply trim the leaves and cut the bulbs in half or in slices. Roast 15-20 minutes at 425°F. Radishes are part of this incredible Roasted Buddha Bowl that has broccoli, cauliflower, and a creamy lemon white bean sauce. These Chive Mustard Roasted Radishes are caramelized in a buttery sauce for a savory side that pairs well with anything.
7. Don’t Forget the Greens
Radishes are a vegetable we can eat from root to stem. The leaves are edible, peppery, and delicious. They don’t last too long so you need to use them right away. You can enjoy them raw, in a salad or on a sandwich, or sauté them as you would any other dark, leafy greens. See Tips for Cooking Greens So They Taste Real Delicious for tips and tricks. If the taste is too strong for you, blanch them first to mellow them out. One year, when I had a lot of fresh radishes, I caramelized them and used the leaves to make a pesto sauce for pasta.
To make my Radish Leaf Pesto: combine 4 cups fresh chopped radish leaves, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 3 cloves garlic, the zest and juice of half a lemon and 2 tablespoons vegan parmesan in a food processor. Steam in up to ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil while processing the ingredients. When the pesto is smooth, season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. When the pasta is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and add it, little by little, to the pesto to loosen it up a bit. Toss the pasta in the pesto sauce and serve hot.
Now that spring has sprung, make sure to pick up some fresh radishes (with their greens) at the farmers’ market. Try them in these recipes to enjoy them raw and cooked all season.
Lead image source: Chive Mustard Roasted Radishes