The first root vegetable of spring is also the most under-used. Besides putting them in a salad, what do you DO with radishes anyway?

Related to the mustard plant, radishes come in several varieties, ranging from sweet to spicy and peppery in flavour and from white to vibrant red, and even grey and black in colour. They are a favourite of the home gardener because they’re easy to sow, grow quickly, and offer an early sense of accomplishment. Cultivation of radishes dates back to Roman times and records suggest that the plants were domesticated somewhere in Europe.

Which begs the continued question – why do we mostly eat them raw in salads? A perusal of the Internet led to me recipes for pickled radishes, roasted radishes and one in which the roots are boiled until tender and then tossed with butter and brown sugar, much as you’d do with carrots or parsnips. Having tried this, I think I know why we prefer to eat the things raw – boiling saps out all of the lovely crisp peppery flavour.

Wikipedia indicates that “radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. One cup of sliced red radish bulbs provides approximately 20 calories, largely from carbohydrates”.

Note that radish leaves are also edible – don’t waste these if they’re in good condition – they also go great in salads. And if your garden still gives you more radishes than you can use, maybe consider carving some of them into figures like they do at Christmas in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Raw Radish and Radish Greens with Raw Butter, Grilled Miche and Smoked Oysters
from Anthony Rose, Executive Chef, The Drake Hotel

1 bunch radishes with tops, cleaned and soaked in really cold water to make the greens perky and stand up
Sea salt
1/2 lb good raw butter
Good bread – I use a miche from Fred’s bread. Cut it thick, brush with EVOO and grill slowly.
3 cans smoked oysters from Fanny Bay Oyster Co. in B.C. You can get them at Diana’s Seafood.

We put everything on one plate, sprinkle the salt on the butter and open the can just a smidge. The presentation is great.
We don’t sell a ton of them but when we do, guests love it.

Drink with cold beer.
Drink with more cold beer.
That’s really about it!

Radish, Pink Grapefruit and Mint Salad
from Christopher Palik, Executive Chef, L-Eat Catering and Paese Ristorante

1/2 6oz bag of red radish
1 pink grapefruit
3 sprigs of mint
3 tbsp of Olive oil
1 tsp of salt

Makes a side salad for two.

You will need one cutting board, a small paring knife, a small mixing bowl, and a bottle of white wine.

With the paring knife or better yet, a mandolin, slice the radishes paper thin. Soak the radishes in cold water. Peel the skin from the grapefruit and cut into segments, squeeze the remaining juice from the grapefruit and reserve. Roughly chop the mint. Drain the radishes well; combine them in a bowl with the grapefruit segments, the reserved grapefruit juice, and the mint. Add the olive oil and salt and stir to combine. Open up a bottle of white wine and enjoy. This salad would pair well with a nice fillet of white fish, scallops, shrimp or on its own with some crusty bread.

For additional interesting things to do with radishes check out Martha Stewart’s collection of radish recipes (everything from radish green soup to radish slaw and fish tacos), and the UK food blog Vegging Out has links to some cool radish recipes as well (ooh! radish chips!).