In Season: Radishes

by in In Season, May 28, 2009

Radishes are my favorite veggie. Seriously. Yeah, they’re an unusual choice, but I grew up snacking on them raw. Not sure you’re a fan? Well, here are some ways to enjoy them, raw or cooked.

When, Where & What?
In Latin the word radix means “root,” which makes sense since the radish is from the root of the plant. When I was a girl, I’d pull fresh radishes from the ground and bring them in the house for dinnertime. They’re relatively easy to grow if you have a bit of room; the National Gardening Association has some good info on growing them.

Believe it or not, radishes are from the mustard family — and are thought to have originated in western Asia. You will find them in various colors, ranging from white to red to purple to black. They can be oval, round or elongated. Check your local farmers’ market for different varieties. The red-skinned radishes — my personal fave — are most popular in the U.S.; they have a mild to peppery flavor. You’ll find daikon radishes, which are white and have crisp, milder flavor more in Japanese cuisine.

Nutrition Info
Radishes have 20 calories per cup and are high in vitamins C — a cup serving gives you 25% of your daily need. They also contain other nutrients like potassium (important for muscle health), folate (important for pregnant women) and calcium (good for bones). Really, they’re low-calorie superstars. The black varieties also contain antioxidants, but they’re tougher to find (call your local specialty store or ask around the farmers’ market).

What To Do With Radishes
This is very important: wash your radishes well and remove any dirt or sand before you eat them. Soaking them for 20 minutes to 2 hours increases their crispiness. I wash and trim mine and then keep them in a bowl in the fridge for fast munching. Consider adding them to a crudite platter with hummus for dipping. Or mix diced pieces into fresh salsa for a bit of crunch.

I typically slice them thinly and add them to a salad, but they can be braised, glazed, sautéed and even pickled. One thing I didn’t know until recently — you can eat radish leaves raw in salads or cooked up like spinach. They also add flavor and texture to a veggie soup. Now I can enjoy the whole plant!

Shopping Tip
Buy firm radishes with bright green attached leaves. To store, discard leaves and place radishes in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.

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