Radishes are a spring and fall vegetable, although you may also find local radishes overwinter, if they’ve been grown in hoop houses or greenhouses. Radishes have numerous varieties that vary in size, flavor, color, and length of time to maturity, and can be used in different ways. The specific companion plant benefit of radishes is that they attract pests to their leaves that would otherwise destroy other plants that are leaf or flower based. Radishes help to break up compacted soil. Pests are often lured to radish greens and away from other plants, because of this, they are great to plant in flower beds and gardens as companion plants. Also, if you let radishes bolt (flower), they will produce huge plumes of yellow flowers that attract pollinators and will produce radish pods that you can pickle. Radishes that have bolted will no longer have a tasty root, however.
The radish root is 94% water and has only nominal values of a few vitamins and minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin C. Radishes have been used throughout history to treat everything from diabetes to piles, from jaundice to vitiligo. The greens, on the other hand, are packed with nutrients, as most leafy greens are, and are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and group-B.
Buying & Storing
The best way to tell if your radishes are at the peak of perfection is to look at the greens. The greens should be bright green, fresh, and perky. Any sign of browning, mushiness, or wilting means that they are old, or have been stored improperly. Look for firm and solid roots, without too many blemishes or brown spots.
Before storing radishes, it’s helpful to remove the greens from the radish so that both will keep longer. Store radishes for up to 2 weeks in a plastic bag, or wrapped in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator. Store greens separately wrapped in a damp paper towel in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Use the greens as soon as possible. Radishes and their pods can be pickled or canned for long-term storage.
Preparation – all parts of the radish plant are edible, including the pods. The pods can be eaten raw, tossed in a salad, stir-fried, or pickled. Before you use radishes, remove the greens from the root and set aside. You can wash and eat the greens cooked or raw, or add to stock. Scrub the radishes gently with a brush or rub with a dish towel to remove any garden soil. Radishes do not need to be peeled, though some varieties have a woody outer layer.
Radishes are generally interchangeable in recipes, however, their pungency varies so always make sure to taste them first. For example, watermelon and daikon radishes are much milder than French or red radishes and tend to serve different purposes in recipes, so always taste test in order to find the best substitution options.
Raw – Radishes are typically eaten raw due to the delicious crunch and flavor of raw radish. Slice, chop, or grate for salads, slaws, use with dip or put on a sandwich. Enjoy grated daikon on a banh mi, or sliced red radish on a turkey sandwich with Gruyere and spinach.
Sauté – briefly sauté grated, sliced, or match-stick cut radishes to tone down the “bite” of a particularly pungent radish. Sauté/pan-sear in a non-stick or sprayed pan for a few minutes over high heat. You want the radishes to get a little brown but not burnt or turn too crispy.
Steam – keep radishes whole (remove the greens just below the top of the radish) and place in the steamer basket of a medium pot (over an inch of boiling water) for 8-12 minutes. Steam until tender but not mushy. Once they are done, roll them in butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.
Soup – Use radishes in soups and stews similarly as you would use turnips. Radishes are much more biting than turnips, so as long as you consider the flavoring change and adjust the amount added accordingly, they can be used chopped, sliced, or whole.
Greens – the greens are even more versatile than the actual radish. Sauté the greens as you would spinach, add them raw to a salad mix, put on pizza, add to soups, enjoy as a side dish, blend into a delicious pesto, stir-fry with various kinds of rice or grain, pickle, or use as a garnish.