Radishes are one of my favorite vegetables to grow in the garden. Usually radishes are the very first crop that comes to the table in early spring. They grow incredibly fast – some varieties are ready to harvest in as little as three weeks after planting – which is one of the reasons they’re especially fun to plant with children in the garden. My 3-year-old daughter becomes giddy with glee when she pulls one up from the earth. Indeed, for children and adults alike, there’s something especially thrilling about harvesting root vegetables, as the bright-skinned beauties emerge from dark brown soil like a hidden surprise.
Radishes are also particularly hardy in cold temperatures, which is one of the reasons they can be planted so early in the year. Radishes will become hotter as the temperatures rise, so they are best reserved for spring and fall planting. During cool weather, you can plant radishes every two weeks for a continuous harvest. Sow radishes in full sun and thin seedlings to 2 inches apart, as they will not grow well when crowded.
Radish colors range from vivid red, blush pink, snowy white and lavender, to almost black. The Watermelon Radish is one of the most visually appealing vegetables in existence. When cut, its green skin gives way to a gorgeous, bright red interior. This variety is also especially mild, making it a great choice for kids or others who shy away from bitter tastes.
Radish applications extend far beyond the salad bar. French breakfast radishes are traditionally served with butter and salt. When sliced and combined with segmented oranges, julienned jicama and cilantro, then tossed with some lime juice and chili powder, radishes make for a beautiful, bright salad that would be at home on any summer picnic table. Pickled radishes are traditional in many Asian cuisines, and are an essential component of the famed Bahn Mi sandwich of Vietnam. When roasted, radishes’ spicy crunch mellows out into a juicy sweet morsel that is a delightful and delicious accompaniment to grilled steak or roasted chicken.
My absolute favorite way to enjoy radishes, however, is thinly sliced, on top of a fresh slice of baguette that has been slathered with anchovy-chive butter. I love serving these at parties. Even those who may be initially put off by the idea of anchovy butter instantly become smitten upon their first taste. The briny umami flavor of the anchovies combined with the sweet-sharp character of the radish and the rich butter with yeasty, crusty bread is an addictive combination. In fact, during one party, I practically had to hide them from my servers to keep them from eating every one before the party.
• Radishes on baguette with anchovy chive butter
• 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (or more to taste)
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
• kosher salt and black pepper to taste
• thinly sliced radishes
• freshly sliced baguette
Combine butter, olive oil, anchovy paste and chives and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slather butter mixture on slices of freshly cut baguette, then top with thinly sliced radishes. Garnish with additional chopped chives and serve.
• Roasted radishes with lemon and chives
• 2 pounds radishes with greens
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon melted butter
• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• A pinch of sugar
• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Separate greens from radishes and set aside. Slice radishes in half and toss with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast until tender and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat butter and garlic in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook radish greens, tossing, just until wilted, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve over the roasted radishes.
Radish slaw with creamy lime dressing
This cool slaw has a Latin kick and is an excellent accompaniment to fish tacos or barbequed meats.
• 2 bunch radishes, cut into matchsticks or grated
• 1 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
• 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 cup cilantro leaves
• 1 bunch green onions, both red and green parts, thinly sliced
• 3 tablespoons lime juice
• 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• Kosher salt and pepper to taste
• Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Combine radishes, cabbage, pepper, cilantro and green onions in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk dressing ingredients to combine. Add to vegetables and mix well to combine.
Ashley Meyer is the executive chef for genHkids and mother of 3-year-old Madeline Rose, who, just last weekend discovered that she loves asparagus. It takes kids an average of 8-15 exposures to a new food before they accept it. Maddie needed about 100 exposures to acquire a taste for asparagus. The jury is still out on radishes.