Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What to Do With All Those Radishes

Ode to Radishes:

Oh, radishes, you flourish in my garden plot.
I don't know what to do with you, so I cook you in a pot.

This horrendous bit of poetry pretty much sums up the life of the humble radish, doesn't it?  They are some of the first seeds to sprout, the first plants to get real leaves in the garden, and the first to be ready for harvest.  In my climate, they are a mid-summer vegetable, but most climates only support them in the spring and fall.  

I have had a love/hate relationship with radishes since the first time I planted them a few years ago.  While I waited (impatiently) for my other seeds to sprout, I was encouraged that at least something was alive in my garden.  The love only deepened last summer, when they were the only vegetable in my garden to actually survive being dug up by my dog (twice) and tentatively replanted.  A few of them actually made it to harvest after all that drama.  True vegetable love.

So where does the hate come in?  Well, I don't really like the flavor of raw radishes.  All my life, I'd only ever encountered them sliced on top of salads, and their strong, lingering, peppery flavor was not one of my favorites.  So I was torn...I love to see them flourishing in the garden, but is it really worth it if I don't like to eat them?

After they survived the dog attack last summer, I decided my radishes really deserved to be eaten...and enjoyed!  I discovered the joy of cooked radishes.

Here is my current favorite preparation method, which transforms the unloved salad topping into a lovely vegetable side dish, or even a main dish.

After a thorough washing, sever the radishes from their greens (don't toss the greens though!) and slice them thinly.   Chop the greens coarsely, and if the stems have gotten too tough or woody, toss them.  Saute radish slices in butter or (my favorite), rendered bacon fat.  After the radish slices have sauted for a minute or two, toss in the greens, and cook until just wilted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The greens can also be eaten raw, for a slightly spicy salad.  After preparing half of my greens cooked with the radishes, and half chopped and raw, I actually tossed the raw in the pan and sauted them up, too, because I liked the flavor with the bacon fat so much!

After being cooked, the radishes have a delicious mild, very slightly peppery flavor.  I could eat them by the plateful...if my kids didn't swipe them all first.  

What is your favorite garden vegetable?  Are there any that you grow, but don't really like to eat?  Any other great ideas for preparing radishes?


  1. What an excellent idea. (Plus, everything tastes great when cooked in bacon fat.) I will have to try this myself, as I will have quite a few radishes myself, in the near future. Do you think they would do well in a beef stew? If you didn't mention it, people might mistake them for red potatoes.

  2. Yes! I do this too! Although, not with the greens. My radishes aren't fresh from the garden, so the greens are usually in no condition to eat by the time I'm ready to cook. But, sliced up sauteed radishes are excellent- especially when paired up with other nice veggies. I've been wanting to try them chunked and roasted with other root veggies, but I never seem to have them at the same time. :-)

    Eleanor- cooked radishes are closer to cooked turnips in texture and flavor than they are to potatoes. They'd probably still be good, though!

  3. Eleanor, I agree that everything tastes great in bacon fat! Yum! I bet they would go well in beef stew, but they don't have that starchy, crumbly texture when cooked. More like a carrot texture.

    WordVixen, I'm glad you've enjoyed this preparation method as well! It totally changes the way I feel about radishes - they are much more versatile when they don't have that strong peppery flavor, I think. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Wow, I never knew radishes were good cooked! I like their raw flavor all right, but eating them always gives me a stomachache, so I've avoided them. I'll try cooking them!

  5. I never once thought of cooking radishes - in my 60+ years of life, I've never heard of anyone who ever did that. I often wondered why they are so prolific, when I really don't like them either, and they seemed rather useless to me!

  6. 'Becca, I wonder if you might be able to handle them if they are cooked! Let me know what you find you1

    Dawn, they seemed useless to me, too. :)

  7. Um, I try not to grow stuff that I wouldn't like eating, like radishes. That being said, my sister, who likes radishes and grows them, did offer to share some with me. Maybe if I cook them, I'll like them?

  8. Barb, you should give them a try cooked - you just might change your mind! I generally don't grow things I don't like either, but, well, they were all that would grow the first few years. :)

  9. Try grating your radishes, mixing with salt and lemon, and letting them sit. They end up releasing their spice (and quite a stink), and end up being so awesomely delicious!
    Or try them with mayo, salt, pepper and cucumbers in a cold salad. It also loses the burn. I think I have a few radish recipes on my blog if you google radish on the side...

  10. Ooh, thank you so much for the good ideas! I might have to try the first suggestion outside if it's pretty stinky, but the second one sounds very doable! I have a new batch in the garden right now...maybe they will be dinner tonight!

  11. Just warning you, the grated radish salad leaves quite a smell like dead fish, but if you hold your nose while you eat it, it's well worth it.
    Another thing I like doing is cooking radishes and making it in a curry. So yummy! I look for recipes with radishes because the radishes here are the size of softballs and I can get them for 12 cents a pound when they're in season, and you know how I am- always looking for ways to use cheap produce...

  12. Oh man, all these warnings about radish stink are making me worried. :) The curry sounds fantastic, though! Wow, 12 cents a pound for radishes? You must really know where to shop!


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