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Rooting for Radishes

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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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