Part of the cruciferous family, radishes are in season in the early spring and early fall. Victoria Shanta Retelny, author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods, from 2011, explains that this crisp, clean-tasting root vegetable is closely related to mustard greens and turnips: “There are several varieties, and the color and shape dictate their names: icicle radishes are slender white ones; Easter egg radishes are rounded and range in color from purple to lavender to pink to white; watermelon radishes look like their namesake with pale green skin and pinkish-red insides; and black Spanish radishes have rough, black skin with a strong, pungent white flesh.” All are nutritious, she says, adding that radishes are high in vitamin C (the leaves contain six times that of the root), as well as folic acid and potassium for heart health and controlling blood pressure.
Here are the best tips for using this lovely vegetable, from chefs, cookbook authors, and nutritionists around the country:
1. Jill Nussinow, a registered dietitian and author of The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, loves both the long, white Japanese daikon and the very beautiful watermelon daikon for their mild flavors. “I like to quick-pickle my radishes with vinegar and serve them as a condiment. I also add them to stir-fries and mixed vegetable dishes and use them chopped, diced, or grated in salads,” she says. Nussinow recommends sprouting radish seeds to add some heat to salads and sandwiches.
2. Kami Gray, author of The Denim Diet: Sixteen Simple Habits to Get You into Your Dream Pair of Jeans, uses sliced watermelon radishes as a replacement for tortilla or pita chips—in other words, as a healthy dip delivery vehicle: “I eat them with hummus, guacamole, or any other dip that’s normally served with chips or pita bread.”
3. Robert Grant, chef at The Blue Room and Belly Wine Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers this simple, unique recipe pairing radishes and ricotta.
1 bunch French breakfast or Easter egg radishes, trimmed
1 seedless cucumber
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
10 to 12 fresh mint leaves, cut in fine shreds
4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, cut in fine shreds
3 T olive oil
Grilled crusty bread or crackers
Aceto Balsamico di Modena Traditionale
Using a cheese grater or medium Microplane, grate radishes and cucumber into a bowl. Squeeze out and discard excess water. Add the ricotta, mint, basil, and olive oil and stir with a fork. Salt to taste, stirring well. Serve on bread or crackers, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
4. David Grotto, author of The Best Things You Can Eat, says that since radishes are related to members of the cabbage family, they work well when swapped for cauliflower, broccoli, and horseradish. He adds that with only 19 calories per cup, radishes can fit into any diet. Other uses he suggests include:
● Roasted, on salads, and in dips
● Sliced or chopped, a base for a salad
● Chopped and mixed into hamburger as a crunchy extender
● Pickled, for use as an antipasto
5. Chef Chris Brugler, a Los Angeles caterer (www.chrisbruglercatering.com), shares this simple recipe for pickled radishes.
Pickled Daikon and Red Radishes with Ginger
Crisp disks of two kinds of radishes taste clean and sweet in this Japanese- and Korean-influenced pickle.
1-1/2 pounds daikon radish, peeled
1 bunch red radishes (about 10), trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges
1 T kosher salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
3 T sugar
1 T very thin matchsticks peeled ginger
Cut the daikon in half lengthwise, then crosswise, into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the red radishes and salt. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain in a colander (do not rinse). Wipe out the bowl and return the radishes to it. Add the vinegar, sugar, and ginger and stir until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a nonreactive container, cover tightly, and chill for at least 12 hours to allow the flavors to develop, shaking once or twice to keep the radishes and ginger covered with the pickling solution.