Most Americans have only had radishes raw, stirred into a salad. Some love the crispy crunch. Others find their sharp zing too spicy. If that is you, try cooking them to mellow their flavor. Tender, fresh radish bulbs and greens cook quickly and only need simple prep to taste great.
Cooked radishes are an entirely different taste experience that is more palatable to children who may not like the sharp, crunchy raw radish bulbs. They're great roasted, added to stir-fries or sauteed with meat.
Roasting brings out their natural sugars. To roast the bulbs, toss with olive oil and a little sugar, and roast at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
Add sliced radish bulbs to Oriental stir-fries towards the end of cooking, for an unexpected nip. Those fuzzy, peppery leaves can also make a delicious pesto.
For a side dish with chicken, fish or pork, wash, trim and quarter the radishes, then cook them in a skillet with a bit of butter and a sprinkle of salt about 10 minutes, until tender. They turn pale pink and quite sweet tasting. Top with a mild fresh herb like chives, parsley or chervil.
Don't waste the greens and throw them in the compost! They have a mild bite, a little like the radish beneath them, and a slightly fuzzy texture, but this disappears when they're cooked. They're delicious sauteed with onion and bacon. They're great steamed or stirred into skillets, soups or stews. Or cook like you would spinach. You can use them in the same manner as their cousins, turnip greens. They can be cooked like other greens or used in soups, stews or hot pasta dishes. They're great wrapped around sweet vegetables like parsnips, carrots or sweet potatoes, and roasted. They're also fantastic sauteed with a touch of garlic and onion.
If you have a garden, radishes are easy to grow in our cool spring weather. They're frost hardy and prefer cool temperatures. (They tend to get tough and bolt in hot weather.) They mature quickly, in just three to four weeks after planting as seeds, and lift up slightly out of the ground when they're ready. Don't let them get too big, or they'll split and get tough. There are many new and heirloom varieties, like French Breakfast, White Icicle, Easter Egg, Ping Pong or Watermelon, which has a green tint with a pink center and is a little sweeter than most.
Radishes are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamin C. A cruciferous vegetable, they have cancer-protecting properties, and they're rich in many minerals like sulfur, iron and iodine. Like other dark greens - kale, spinach, chard - radish greens are extremely healthy for you! They contain lots of calcium and much more vitamin C than the radish bulbs do.
Radishes grow wild in Asia and have been cultivated in China for thousands of years. They were common in ancient Egypt, and the Greeks made small gold replicas of the radish for use in the worship of their god, Apollo. British colonists brought the radish to Massachusetts in 1629.
Both roots and greens of the radish are best eaten when young and tender. If you don't object to the fuzzy texture, you can add the greens to salads or use them in place of lettuce in sandwiches with turkey or ham and mayo. Like the bulbs, they have a sharp, peppery flavor.
Chicken Saute with Radishes & Greens
1 bunch radishes with greens
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (8 to 12 ounces)
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup broth or water
1/4 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon sour cream
Fresh chive blossoms for garnish, optional
Scrub radishes, and slice thin. Wash greens, and chop coarsely. Set both aside.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until browned, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate; cover to keep warm.
Add onion, garlic and sliced radishes to skillet, and cook 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add 1/4 cup water or broth, 1/4 cup wine and the chopped greens, and bring to a simmer. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in mustard and reserved chicken. Cook 2 to 3 minutes for chicken to heat through. Remove from heat, and stir in sour cream. Serve over pasta or grain, or with a side of boiled potatoes. Top with fresh chive blossoms for garnish, if desired.
Cream of Radish Soup
1 chicken drumstick
4 - 5 cups broth or water
2 - 3 grains allspice
1 large onion
2 large potatoes (about 1 pound)
Stalk of celery or piece of celery root
Piece of turnip or wedge of cabbage
about 6 - 8 cups loosely packed radish greens
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup fresh minced chives
1 Tablespoon Fresh Mint, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
In soup kettle, simmer chicken with broth, allspice and bay leaf 10 to 20 minutes. If using plain water add a little salt and pepper.
Peel potatoes and cut up. Add the soup veggies (carrot, parsnip, celery, sliver of cabbage and piece of leek) to the kettle. Cook in the broth about 15 minutes.
Peel and slice the onion. Heat butter or oil in skillet and cook on low 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely caramelized.
While soup is cooking, cut leaves from radishes and wash well. Chop coarsely. (Reserve radishes for another use.)
When chicken is cooked, remove, along with the spices. When cool, remove meat and cut up; discard bone
Add radish greens to the soup kettle and cook 10 minutes more. Debone and dice the chicken, and add.
Cover and simmer until everything is tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree finely in a food processor. Return to saucepan. Mix in milk, yogurt, parsley and mint. Stir over medium heat until hot. Stir in radishes and chives. Season to taste with plain yogurt, salt and pepper.
Author of the award-winning cookbook "Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers' Market," Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.