Are you ready for radishes?
It’s time to get them while they’re hot (but still mild). Because as temperatures warm, they’re gone – just like spring weather.
For most cooks, radishes have been relegated to the role as salad fodder or garnish, but that’s only a slice of what this nutritious and versatile root vegetable can play in the kitchen.
A member of the cabbage family, radishes also are a nutrient-packed cooked or preserved vegetable. If shopping locally grown radishes at farmers markets, this season may be short. Warm days make radishes “bolt” – farmer talk for “go to seed.” That quick process turns the succulent roots to woody remnants.
But right now, all sorts of radishes are still available.
The world of radishes can be divided into four parts: Red, white, black and daikon.
Red radishes are the most familiar. These are those little crimson balls, sold by the bunch with their leaves still attached. The mild red (or sometimes pink or purple), elongated French Breakfast fall in this category, too.
White radishes – not to be confused with daikon — are 4 or 5 inches long with pale skin and mildly pungent crisp flesh.
Black radishes look like sooty turnips and can range in taste from mild (and slightly musty) to very peppery. The flesh appears milky and very white.
Daikon, a favorite in Japan, are the giants of the radish family: They grow up to 2 feet long and 3 inches thick. Looking like a giant white carrot, daikon radishes usually have white skin and flesh but can be pale green, purple or red. Daikon flavor ranges from mild to a distintive peppery bite. In Asia, this deep-rooted radish is often grown for its seed, a source of oil. Heirloom green and red “watermelon radishes,” popular for their rainbow hues, are actually daikons.
“Most popular by far are the daikons,” said Suzanne Ashworth, who grows about six radish varieties at her Del Rio Botanical farm in West Sacramento. “It doesn’t matter which variety; (chefs) want the daikons.”
French Breakfast are a favorite for salads and restaurant use. Its name comes from the French custom of serving thin slices of this mild radish on buttered bread (with maybe a sprinkle of salt).
“It’s a delicious radish,” Ashworth noted.
Like other heirloom vegetables, unusual or older varieties of radishes are showing up in farmers markets and on restaurant menus. Black radishes, for example, date back to renaissance Europe. Either round or elongated, they were common in France, England and Spain.
Radishes are closely related to kale, broccoli and cauliflower except we usually eat radish’s roots, not leaves or flowers. (Radish leaves and flowers are edible, too.) Like carrots, radishes can be roasted, baked, grilled, boiled, braised, sauteed, steamed, stir-fried or pickled.
While they may be short lived in the field, Radishes can last weeks (or months) in the refrigerator.
And after the roots are gone, expect to see radish seed pods in the farmers market and in restaurant pantries.
A favorite in China, radish seed pods also are catching the attention of restaurant chefs who sauté the peppery pods and serve them atop chicken or fish. They pickle them to use like capers. Or they pop fresh pods in salads.
In addition, radish seeds can be sprouted and eaten like bean sprouts.
Both the sprouted seeds and seed pods pack a bonus: They taste like radishes, too, but in unexpected ways.
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.
Nutrition: Mostly fiber, radishes are extremely low in calories. One cup fresh sliced radishes (any variety) contains 19 calories. A single 1-inch red radish has only 1 calorie. (That makes them a wonderful low-cal snack.) They’re very high in Vitamin C, folate and potassium and also are a good source of riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.
Selection: For most radishes, get them while they’re small. They’re sweeter and milder. Larger radishes (among the spring red and/or white varieties) tend to get woody with size or age. Look for firm, uncracked, well-colored radishes with uniform shape and size. Leaves, if attached, should be bright green, not yellow. Avoid radishes that look wrinkled or soft.
Storage: Red, white and black radishes should be stored, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Cut back leaves to 1-inch of stem for longer storage. Daikon radishes should be refrigerated unwrapped. Red and white radishes will stay fresh two to three weeks; black and daikon radishes will keep for several weeks. Wash just before using.
Preparation: Peeling is optional. Scrub off any dirt and cut away the tap root (on ball-shaped varieties) and other darkened or root-covered sections.
To roast, bake or braise: Treat like a carrot or turnip to accompany meats, adding to the roasting pan in the last 60 to 90 minutes of cooking. If braising in liquid (such as with corned beef), add in the last 30-45 minutes.
To roast separately: Quarter or slice radishes and spread on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to coat. Roast at 350 degrees F. 30 minutes or more, until fork tender.
To bake: Place washed and trimmed radishes on a sheet of foil with butter (2 tablespoons per pound of radishes) and a clove of garlic. Sprinkle radishes with salt and pepper to taste. Fold foil over and tightly seal around contents. Place foil in pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake 20-30 minutes or until tender.
To grill: Wash and trim radishes. Put them in a bowl and coat them lightly with olive oil. Put them on skewers and grill over medium-heat for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until lightly browned and tender. Or stir-fry them in a grill wok until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.
To pickle: This works great with daikon radishes. Peel and cut radishes into pieces, 1/2-inch thick. Or use small red radishes whole, with the stem and root end trimmed off. In a clean 1-quart jar, place 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns. Fill the jar with radishes, leaving about a 1/2-inch space at the top. Pour 2 cups white vinegar or white wine vinegar over the radishes in the jar, again leaving a 1/2-inch head space. Cover and shake lightly so sugar and salt dissolves. Place jar in refrigerator. The pickled radishes will be ready to eat in 3 days. They’ll keep, refrigerated, for at least one month.
Horseradish: This fiery root is a different species (Armoracia rusticana) and a perennial cousin to common radishes (Raphanus sativus). The pungent roots can grow (and spread) for many years. The Egyptians grew horseradish as early as 1500 B.C.
Wasabi: Another radish cousin, this perennial (Eutrema japonicum) grows in wet conditions (it’s native to Japanese stream beds). Although it looks like a root, it’s actually the wasabi stem that is used for making pungent wasabi paste, popular with sushi.
Lore: One of the oldest cultivated vegetables, radishes are eaten all over the globe. They’re likely native to China, but were grown by the Greeks and Romans as early as 300 B.C. They were introduced to the Americas by explorers in the early 1500s.
— Debbie Arrington
Grated radish salad
Be sure to use the Black Spanish radishes called for in this recipe, which is a take on celeriac (celery root) remoulade. Their nutty, dense flesh will absorb the dressing without turning soggy. Recipe from Washington food writer Emily Horton.
1 pound Black Spanish radishes (see headnote)
Leaves from 4 to 6 stems flat-leaf parsley (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Scrub the radishes, but don’t peel them. Grate them on the large holes of a box grater and then toss in a mixing bowl with the parsley, cumin, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.
Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Per serving: 80 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat.); 0 Chol.; 5 g carb.; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 1 g protein
Roasted radish flatbread with ricotta, honey and herbs
Serves 4 to 6
Crispy flatbread showcases earthy spring radishes, their bite softened with creamy ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Toss a handful of verdant herbs over the top, and you have an appetizer with spring appeal. Recipe from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
1 pizza dough recipe or 1 ball prepared pizza dough (check grocers’ chilled sections)
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup ricotta (full-fat)
5 plump spring radishes, sliced paper-thin
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
Heat oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it, too. (Otherwise, use a baking sheet.)
Stretch dough into a thin round. Brush with olive oil and spread ricotta over dough. Lay radishes in a single layer on top. Bake in preheated oven 7 to 8 minutes, until crust edge has golden spots.
Remove from oven. Drizzle with honey, and sprinkle on herbs and salt. Serve immediately.
Japanese-style rice and radish salad with shrimp
The salad can be prepared in advance and is served at room temperature.
2 cups white long-grain rice
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cups snow peas (Chinese pea pods)
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cups thinly sliced red radishes
1/2 cup sliced green onions (scallions)
Pickled ginger, wasabi and additional soy sauce, as desired
Cook rice according to package directions.
Meanwhile, prepare dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil until blended. Transfer warm rice to a large bowl; gently mix dressing into warm rice.
In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add snow peas. Cook 1 minute; with a slotted spoon, transfer snow peas to the rice mixture. To boiling water in saucepan, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink, about 4 minutes; drain and cool. Add shrimp, radishes and green onions to rice mixture; toss to coat.
Serve at room temperature with small bowls of pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce, if desired.
Per serving: 479 cal., 31 g pro., 6 g fat, 72 g carbo.
Roasted radish and herbed ricotta omelet
This uses homemade ricotta, but good store-purchased ricotta can be substituted. Recipe from Erin Alderson of www.TheKitchn.com.
For the roasted radishes:
1 cup thinly-sliced French Breakfast radishes, or other radish variety
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the ricotta:
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh whole milk ricotta
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh flat leaf parsley, plus extra for topping
For the eggs:
4 large or extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
To make the radishes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the radishes with the olive oil and salt. Spread in a thin layer in a roasting dish and bake until soft and tender, 10 to 12 minutes (any longer and you may end up with radish chips).
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with the minced herbs.
To make the omelet, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in half the egg mixture and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, allowing the bottom to set slightly. Run a spatula under the edges, lifting up and tilting the pan to allow uncooked eggs to run under the cooked part. Continue to do this until the majority of the egg is set. Carefully flip the omelet and remove from heat.
Spread half the ricotta mixture over half of the omelet and sprinkle with half of the radishes. Fold the omelet over over the filling and sprinkle with a few more roasted radish slices and minced parsley.
Repeat to make the second omelet. Serve both omelets immediately.
French breakfast radish sandwich
Prep time: 10 minutes
The French breakfast radish (its proper name) pops up at farmers markets heralding the arrival of early season produce and disappearing as the heat picks up, unlike the common radish, which is shipped in and sold year-round at the grocer. Recipe from Joe Gray of the Chicago Tribune.
3 or 4 French breakfast radishes (or regular radishes), thinly sliced lengthwise
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
Half a sun-dried tomato in oil, drained
Handful arugula leaves
2 slices rustic bread, toasted
Spread the cream cheese thickly on one side of one slice of bread. Layer the radish slices on top, pushing them into the cream cheese a bit to help them stay in the sandwich. Slice the sun-dried tomato in thin ribbons; scatter them over the radishes. Top with arugula, then the second slice of bread.
Per serving: 362 calories, 22 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 62 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 566 mg sodium, 2 g fiber