Radishes grow—from seed to crunchy orb—in about a month.
As such, they are often the first item out of an edible garden. In most climates, you can also grow several rounds or crops of them before the weather turns against them. In the U.S., we are used to eating them as-is. Whole and crunchy as a snack or as part of a crudité platter, or perhaps sliced and tossed into mixed salads. Now and again as a garnish, perhaps, but that’s about the extent of our radish-eating ways.
Which is a shame, because these members of the mustard family have a lot more to offer. First off, even when we eat them raw, we could do as the French and crunch them with a bit of butter, which softens their heat while highlighting their crunchy character.
And if we are going to eat them raw, we could mix it up a bit. We could grate them into a spiced radish raita, which works as a sauce, a condiment, a dip, or its own salad. Spoon it on everything or just right into your mouth. Or toss them into a radish snap pea salad. Bright and crunchy and spring in a single bite. You can also try keeping things super simple and mix radishes with some parsley to make a beyond-simple salad with plenty of crunch and flavor.
Take things a step further and make a radish cucumber mango salsa, with crunchy piquant radishes and mild cucumbers and soft sweet mangos, and pile it on fish or chicken to stunning effect. Add a bit of cilantro, if that’s your thing, or a handful of mint for some extra zing.
Radishes and their greens
Best of all, when radishes are at their true shining best—when they’ve been pulled fresh from the ground and their greens are lush and full, we can take advantage of the whole radish—root and stem and leaves and all. A stunning treatment is to pretty much stir-fry them with popped mustard seeds, doubling down on the fact that radishes are members of the mustard family. Or, braise radishes with their greens and combine them with a hearty grain, such as farro for a filling side dish or vegetarian main. You can also just saute the radishes with their greens.
If you’ve used the radishes but the greens look good, know that you can use them as you might any other green—add radish greens to salads like lettuce or cook them up like spinach. Or, consider making radish leaf pesto.
More cooked radishes
So, those radishes with butter? Those are good. What’s also good are butter-braised radishes, another classic French treatment that sounds weird if you never think of cooked radishes, but are tender and delicious once you get past that notion. You can also make roasted radishes, to a similar tender, less-sharp effect (for something even yummier, add lemon for a bright side dish).
Radishes seem crunchy and flavorful enough, but various pickling techniques can up the ante a bit. These spicy quick-pickled radish pickles are lovely in salads or on burgers, as are these Japanese-style radish pickles with ginger. If you have a bit more time to wait for the results, try making radish kimchi.