Monday, June 27, 2011

Radishes: Friend or Foe?

radishes and Hakurei turnips at Full Moon Farm in Vermont
They've been used in traditional Asian medicine as a cure for whooping cough, tummy problems, arthritis and even cancer. In ancient Greece they were so revered that replicas were fashioned out of gold. They are popular in a variety of cuisines, from Japanese to German.
And yet, Pliny regarded radishes as 'vulgar' because it caused 'flatulance and eructation' (also known as belching). And as an American chef, a plethora of them can be stupefying. But as I began to play with them, they really are much more versatile than just a tangy crunch added to salads or some color added to a canape. Here's what worked in my kitchen this week...

PICKLE THEM: You can make a quick pickle of them by mixing 3 cups of water, 1 cup of vinegar (white or rice wine) and 1/2 cup of sugar and bringing it to a boil. Slice two bunches of radishes thinly if you want them to pick up the pickle flavor in a few hours, or cut them in half for an overnight pickle. Place the radishes in a clean glass bowl or jar and pour the hot solution over them. Add sliced jalapenos, or peeled and thinly sliced fresh ginger, along with some peeled, halved garlic cloves for additional flavor. Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours for a mild flavor, overnight and up to 3 days for a stronger pickled flavor. These are so fresh tasting and crunchy- serve them as you would any pickle, or add them to chicken or tuna salad.
ROAST THEM: Trim them and toss them with olive oil, fresh thyme or other assertive herb (sage, rosemary) and kosher salt and black pepper and place in a single layer on a baking pan. Roast at 450 degrees until golden, about an hour. You can also add them to a roasted vegetable medley, including such veggies as potatoes, parsnips, and carrots.
GLAZE THEM: Trim them and cut them into halves or wedges. Place in a deep skillet and cover with water. Simmer for 10 minutes, covered, and then uncover and cook until tender, about another 5 minutes, depending on how small you cut them. Drain. Add a few tablespoons of butter to the skillet, along with a tablespoon or so of brown sugar or honey. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted. Add the radishes and shake the pan to coat them with the glaze. Season with kosher salt and serve.

They do also make great additions to stir fries, and I like to chop them up, toss them with a little lime juice, and serve atop a tostada or in a taco.

Friend or Foe?? Friend, I think!


  1. I love radishes, although I didn't always. I like them in the traditional European style, with a sprinkle of salt, buttered bread, and a beer. Or sauteed in a little olive oil and salt, then tossed with salad or pasta.

  2. Hi lovetocook,

    I'm a writer for Saveur magazine working on a story about New England corn, and I'd love to chat with you, if you've got a minute. Send me an email at worldmatt at gmail dot com, and let's talk.


    —Matt Gross