By Carie Birkmeier EBS Staff
Providing a unique, peppery crunch, radishes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Most people are familiar with the typical grocery store find— the small, pinkish-red variety with white flesh, which are commonly known as table radishes.
Radish varieties can be broken down into four categories: western, oriental, leaf and rats-tail. Of these, western and oriental varieties are most commonly eaten and leaf varieties are reserved for feedstock. Rats-tails are solely cultivated for their seeds.
Many smaller varieties of radishes are unique for their fast growing cycle, which allows growers to harvest them in as little as 20 days. They are also seemingly impervious to light frost, which means they can be planted outdoors earlier than other vegetables. Larger roots, such as daikon and Chinese radishes, take longer to harvest—around 60 days.
In addition to being low-maintenance and speedy growers, raw radishes provide a welcome crunch and bite to salads, sandwiches and other cold preparations. Cooking radishes is often overlooked as a cooking method, but roasting or sautéing the vegetable can mellow its flavor and soften its texture.
Next time you’re at the famers’ market, grab a bunch of a less common variety of radishes. Watermelon radishes get their name from their trademark colors—they have a green outer flesh with a bright pink interior color. Daikon, a larger white radish, is gaining popularity in the U.S. and provides a smoother and less crunchy texture than other varieties. Sparklers are bright pink with a white tip, and provide a beautiful presentation in addition to their characteristic radish flavor.
Don’t just eat the plants’ tubers, though—the greens can also be eaten. They can be used similarly to spinach, processed raw into a salad or pesto, or cooked and wilted as a tender side dish. The greens’ flavor is similar to the root’s, but mellower.
Although radishes are typically prepared raw, roasting the vegetable mellows out their spicy flavor and doesn’t take long.
Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter & Lemon
2 bunches small radishes, tops attached
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 450 F. Wash radishes and greens well and set greens aside. Cut radishes in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange radishes on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, until browned on the outside and tender inside.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Continue to cook the butter over low heat, until the butter becomes brown and fragrant (but not burnt). Roughly chop the radish greens.
Toss the cooked radishes together with the brown butter, radish tops, lemon juice and zest.