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Rooting for Radishes

I remember the first time I ever tasted a radish. My mom was eating them raw with her sandwich and offered me a bite. With no warning! Being a culinary-curious child, I reasoned that as long as it wasn’t an internal organ, it was my human duty to try it. Oh my! After the initial shock, I was certain I would never repeat that experience. Fast forward and I have long-since befriended that “evil” radish! Undoubtedly, it was my introduction to the Japanese Daikon radish that was responsible for my turnaround. The Daikon was just the beginning, though, and I quickly learned to love the pungent crispy flavor and the versatility of lots of different radishes. I enjoy pairing them with salads, sandwiches and side dishes, and I eat them raw, cooked and pickled. The radish is an edible root and a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. That makes it a cousin to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, turnips and others. It was originally domesticated in Europe during the pre-Roman era. These days, radishes are grown and enjoyed all over the world. They come in a rainbow of colors including red, white, purple and black. Some are small and round and some are long and cylindrical. They range in flavor from mild to very spicy and pungent. So, you already know they pack a pungent punch, but did you know how good they are for you? They have antioxidants, which help protect against free radical damage and help protect the immune system. And like other members of the cruciferous family, they deliver isothiocyanates, compounds that may help the liver to detoxify. Eating the whole radish plant insures a high intake of vitamin C because the leaves contain nearly six times more than the root. Remember that cooking can destroy vitamin C, so when possible, enjoy your radishes and their leaves raw. While most people enjoy the round red variety, the Daikon radish is a favorite in Asian cuisine. It looks like a very large white carrot; its spicy, pungent flavor makes it perfect when served with rich meals or fattier foods and fish. Radishes make great snacks. They’re crispy, crunchy and cool; they clear the palette and often clear the sinuses! And, like other vegetables, they’re fat free and low in calories. Here are some great ways to enjoy radishes:
  • Eat them alone as a crunchy snack or dip them in your favorite salad dressing.
  • Pair them perfectly with just about any baby green, including spinach and arugula. Here’s one of my favorite recipes using Daikon for Asian Greens Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing.
  • Cut them up and stir them into cottage cheese. Great with parsley, celery, chives and a pinch of sea salt.
  • Slice them thinly and serve over lightly buttered whole grain bread or crackers.
  • Add them to salads of all sorts. Here’s a recipe for Crisp Fennel and Radish Salad.
  • Stir them raw into hot cooked grain dishes.
  • Add them to pasta salad. Here’s an idea for Spring Pasta Salad with Escarole, Radishes and Peas.
  • Make whole grain salads with your favorite veggies and chopped radish. Don’t forget the leaves!
  • Try them with hummus and tabouli.
  • Stir them into tuna salad.
  • Serve them over crackers topped with cream cheese.
  • Sauté radish slices and add to green beans, broccoli or zucchini. Or try this idea for Sugar Snap Peas with Radishes.
  • Pickle them like in this recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind with Radishes or in these Vietnamese Quick Pickled Vegetables.
  • Add chopped or grated radishes to coleslaw. Here’s an idea for Thai Style Grilled Fish Tacos with Slaw.
  • Serve as a condiment alongside hamburgers, turkey burgers or veggie burgers.
  • Try them grated with just a dash of tamari soy sauce and a drop of toasted sesame oil.
If you are wondering about horseradish, it’s a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the mustard family and a cousin to the more common radishes, but it’s not exactly the same thing. It’s a woody, knobby-looking root that is usually grated and mixed with vinegar, then eaten as a condiment – remember spicy shrimp cocktail sauce? Horseradish adds the bite! Do you have a favorite way to eat radishes or a favorite radish recipe? I would love to hear! Some of us get a lot of radishes in our CSA boxes and would love some fresh ideas for eating them.

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Khadija says …

Growing up in Morocco, radishes were part of our salad choices when they were in season. Tossed in a little vinegar, olive oil and salt is the simplest way to enjoy the natural flavor. I served them drenched with rose water and a little honey with fresh mint in my restaurant. They are a delight just the way they are.

John B. Beck says …

What about watermelon radishes? My wife and I have been looking for them.

Pat Skewes says …

I am in Jerusalem and at Cafe Hillel I found a favorite salad with radish, that I eat at least 4 time a week Chop and mix, radish, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, carrots, and if you like some red pepers can be added also. Dressing is olive oil and fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, or a light vinegar, oil, and spices(Hillel's is so good). You can add shredded Feta, or tuna if you like.

CrossKotula says …

We'll be harvesting radishes from the garden this weekend. I can't wait to try some of these terrific ideas.

Margo says …

"Eating the whole radish plant insures a high intake of vitamin C because the leaves contain nearly six times more than the root." Does anyone out there eat the whole plant? I've never met anyone who ate more than that bulbous root.

FairTrade says …

I had no idea there were black radishes... you learn something new each day. Thank you.

Claire Bennoun Levitan says …

Thanks for info. I always cut up radishes and put them into my chicken soup. I do this if I don't have turnips to include. My husband won't eat radishes, but he never knows he does in the soup or stews I present. In the Middle East radishes are sweeter and are served with just lemon, oil and salt.

Kathy Watson says …

Mix finely chopped radishes, minced/drained cucumber and chopped green onions into softened cream cheese. This makes a fantastic veggie spread to go on bagels.

Jaye Joseph says …

We love radishes sliced in salads, pickled as a snack or paired with ginger sesame noodles, butter braised along with Kholarbi and Brussels Sprouts in the winter, and perhaps my favorite, sliced thin atop a piece of good bread with European butter and a little sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.

S.P.Jamal says …

Radish recipes are good first time I have come across these I like it will try it today Jamal

Glass Bottles says …

Sounds similar to my experience with Radishes. We started off rough, now I am more than okay with them! Funny how things change!

Erika - In Erika's Kitchen says …

I am obsessed with radishes! My favorite radish dish is this simple salad: http://www.inerikaskitchen.com/2009/02/standing-up-for-radishes-of-world.html But I also quite like them paired with truffle butter in these tartines: http://www.examiner.com/x-2539-LA-Cooking-Examiner~y2009m7d30-Recipe-Tartines-with-radishes-and-truffle-butter Mmmm. Radishes!

Havana says …

I loveee radishes! I get mine at Whole Foods! So delish on sandwiches with goat cheese, dill, and a little bit of alfalfa sprouts!

Joy says …

We wouldn't know what a salad is without sliced or diced radishes tossed in with a combination of other vegetables. I grew up eating radishes whole, and best of all thinly slice on bread that had been spread with Miracle Whip, then salt and peppered. UMMM!

Lucinda says …

My favorite way to enjoy radishes is to serve them with whipped butter and sea salt for dipping. YUMMY!

screwdestiny says …

Uh, yeah, I can't eat raw radishes. I don't like food that bites back. However, I've heard that roasting them completely takes out the heat, so I'm eager to try that. I don't care about the lost vitamin C. I'll get that from an orange.

Cathy B. says …

Recent article about roasting radishes!(Haven't tried it yet but will soon.) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/12/dining/12appe.html?emc=eta1 Cathy

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