A&E Summer Produce Guide: Radishes

A closer look at the root vegetable that belongs in your recipe repertoire.

by Sophia Zimmerman

When faced with the sight of a crudité-adorned veggie tray, a staple at any Midwestern potluck, the odds are high that most people aren’t immediately reaching for the reddish-pink radishes nestled between the broccoli and carrots. Radishes, while relatively aesthetically appealing, tend to keep people away with their distinctive peppery bite.

Despite its unassuming draw, the radish has a lot to offer.

Radishes pack a solid punch of antioxidants, including a hefty dose of vitamin C. They also contain a decent amount of potassium and calcium, key minerals in promoting heart healthiness.

The heat in radishes comes from an enzyme also found in horseradish, mustard and wasabi. Cooking radishes is going to dull that flavor, softening the sharpness until it transforms into something sort of sweet.

“The bigger they are, the hotter they are,” Suzanne Schmidt, manager of U-pick CSA Ripe Radish Farm, said.

Radishes grow quickly, according to Schmidt. While best collected young, their harvest season can stretch well into the summer months. With this in mind, head to your local farmer’s market, pick up a bunch of radishes and consider one of the following recipes.

While people pickle things all year round, summer is ideal for tossing the produce of your choice in some brine and tucking it in the fridge for later given the abundance of crops in season. Try these simple pickled radishes for a pop of color and a burst of flavor to be used on toast, in a salad or even as a garnish for tacos.

Simple Pickled Radishes

Ingredients:
1 bunch radishes
¾ cup vinegar (white wine, red wine or apple cider works)
¾ cup water 3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt Aromatics (optional): peppercorns, sliced garlic, red pepper flakes

Directions:
1. Slice both tops and bottoms off of radishes, then cut into thin slices. Place slices in a jar along with any aromatics if using.
2. Bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil in a small pot, stirring until everything is dissolved. Pour over the radishes once combined, and let cool until they’ve reached room temperature. Store in the fridge and use within 1-2 weeks.

Condiment Connoisseurs’ Radish Top Pesto

For the condiment connoisseurs, consider this radish top pesto inspired by food blog Love and Lemons. Made using radish tops in place of traditional basil, this is best tossed with pasta, drizzled on a salad or slathered on bread.

Ingredients:
2 cups radish tops, washed thoroughly
½ cup pepitas
¼ cup grated pecorino romano
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt & black pepper
2 cloves minced garlic

Directions:
1. Using a food processor or immersion blender, combine pepitas, salt, pepper and garlic. Follow with radish tops and lemon juice, pulsing until combined.
2. Next, slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing.
3. Finish by adding in the pecorino romano until all ingredients are combined. Adjust the amount of salt to taste.

Substitutes:
-Pesto is highly versatile in terms of ingredients, so feel free to swap out the pepitas and pecorino romano for the seeds, nuts or cheese of your choice.
-If you’re looking for something simpler, garden radishes can be enjoyed French-style — raw, buttered and sprinkled with a little bit of sea salt. Bonus points if you use the tops in a simple salad on the side.

French-style Radishes

Ingredients:
1 bunch radishes
European-style butter (opt for something with at least 82% milk fat content, such as Kerrygold)
Flaky sea salt

Directions:
1. Slice radishes three-fourths of the way through, creating a wide slit.
2. Fill with a softened pat of butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.