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Embracing the Crunch of Radishes: A Peppery Seasonal Delight

June 26, 2024

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Embracing the Crunch of Radishes: A Peppery Seasonal Delight

Radishes: The Unsung Heroes of My Vegetable Drawer

I’m about to say something that I understand is controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway: the radish is better than literally every other vegetable in the world. I am not joking. For years, I have known this to be true, despite my colleagues and friends’ dissenting votes. Honestly, who even likes kale anymore? Potatoes? Don’t make me laugh. I love radishes so much that I even sealed my devotion to them with a real, not temporary tattoo of a black Spanish radish. Sorry, Mom.

Please allow me to demonstrate, in the following five indisputable points, why radishes deserve the spotlight and your love.

The Versatility of Radish Tops

Yes, you can eat radish tops! This makes them a highly economical buy. Instead of lobbing off the greens and trashing them, rinse them clean of any grit, then process them into a peppery-tasting pesto. Use this recipe as a guide. Or give them a rough chop and sauté them with shallots, garlic, and ginger. They’re also excellent steamed or baked into a frittata. As a bonus, you can feel extra virtuous about being such a mindful and responsible cook. I know I always enjoy that part.

The Diverse Flavor Spectrum of Radishes

All radishes are beautiful in their own unique way. Like things seriously spicy? Allow me to introduce you to the black radish, a large globe-like specimen that’s nose-tinglingly hot. Prefer things on the milder side? Nibble on small pink Cherry Belles. There’s a whole world of radish varieties, each with their own distinct flavor and heat level, just waiting to be discovered and loved by you.

The Magical Transformation of Cooked Radishes

The coolest thing about radishes, as far as I’m concerned, is that their flavor goes from hot, hot heat to mellow and sweet when cooked. A radish that has bite when raw will chill out when sautéed or roasted. Play up the spicy-sweet juxtaposition by quartering them and sautéing in a skillet with a splash of water, a pat of butter, and a pinch or two of sugar. The radishes will be cooked through by the time the liquid evaporates, and the butter and sugar will work to lightly caramelize them. Perfection.

Pickled Radishes: The Ultimate Snack

So glad you asked – yes, you can pickle radishes! Apple cider and rice vinegar both complement their flavor nicely. Why not use both? Add some sugar, chile, coriander, and lime to your brine, and you’ve got a highly snackable treat that takes 10 minutes to make and is ready to eat in just 4 hours. So simple. So lovely.

Radishes as Vehicles for Deliciousness

Radishes’ biggest hit is also their most simple: pair raw radishes with softened butter, with a sprinkling of sea salt, and you’ve got the world’s simplest hors d’oeuvre. The sweet creaminess of the butter acts as an excellent foil for the crunchy, spicy vegetable. Slice those radishes and slather that butter on some bread, and you’ve got the world’s simplest sandwich. Prefer olive oil? You’re in luck – they’re also great dipped in EVOO and doctored up with your favorite spice or herb blend. More the creamy cheese type? They also happen to be amazing dipped in burrata. And mayonnaise? What were trying to say here is that although radishes are delightful on their own, they are also a convenient vehicle for other delightful foods.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But, Rochelle, how do I incorporate these radish-y wonders into my meals?” Fear not, my friends, for I have the answer.

Radishes in the Springtime Spotlight

As the seasons change and we welcome the fresh bounty of spring, radishes are poised to take center stage. Alongside other seasonal superstars like asparagus, rhubarb, and Jersey Royal potatoes, radishes are a quintessential harbinger of warmer days and vibrant flavors.

Radish Salad with Chorizo and Wild Garlic Dressing

One of my favorite ways to showcase radishes is in a hearty potato salad, where their crunchy texture and peppery bite provide a delightful contrast to the creamy, buttery Jersey Royals. This recipe for a Jersey Royal potato salad with chorizo, broad beans, and a wild garlic dressing is the epitome of spring on a plate. The smoky richness of the chorizo and the tang of the wild garlic perfectly complement the sweet-and-spicy radishes, making for a truly balanced and satisfying dish.

Trout with Watercress Sauce and Radish Pickles

Radishes also shine in savory dishes, lending their crunchy texture and peppery punch to complement other seasonal ingredients. In this recipe for pan-fried trout with a vibrant watercress sauce, quick-pickled radishes add a tangy crunch that balances the richness of the smoked fish. Paired with Jersey Royal potatoes and seasonal greens, it’s a true celebration of spring’s bounty.

Rhubarb Compote with a Radish Kick

And let’s not forget about the sweet side of radishes. Their natural sweetness can be harnessed to great effect when paired with tart, juicy rhubarb. This rhubarb compote recipe infused with orange, cardamom, and vanilla is the perfect canvas for radishes’ peppery bite. Spoon it over porridge, yogurt, or even use it as a topping for cakes and ice cream – the possibilities are endless.

As we welcome a fresh month, it’s not just about asparagus, rhubarb, and Jersey Royals as the stars of the spring season. Radishes, with their vibrant colors, distinctive flavors, and incredible versatility, deserve a spot in the limelight. Whether you’re sautéing the greens, pickling the roots, or pairing them with other seasonal gems, embracing the crunch of radishes is the key to unlocking the true essence of springtime.

So, the next time you find yourself perusing the produce aisles or the Thornapple CSA box, don’t forget to grab a bunch of radishes. Trust me, they’ll quickly become the MVP of your kitchen – and your taste buds will thank you for it.

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