Radishes are the red and white stars of my spring pickling classes. If you have more radishes in your garden than you can eat, or if you’re just looking to try something new, I say pickle them!
Here are five reasons radishes are great for ferments.
- First to harvest, first to ferment. I know people who hardly eat radishes, but still plant them because they delight in the crops’ ability to grow quickly. The cheery round ‘Cherry Belle’ radish and longer oblong ‘French Breakfast’ radish are harbingers of the gardening season.
- Radishes can be your starter pickle. Never fermented before? Maybe you’ve heard rumors about how good fermented vegetables are for you. Radishes are easy to pickle or ferment, even if you’re brand-new to fermenting.
- Radishes are incredibly healthy. Eastern medicine recognizes radishes as a spring tonic, great for your liver and gallbladder. Radish aficionados also claim these vegetables aid respiration and help rid our bodies of cold symptoms. They’re high in vitamin C (even higher after they’re fermented). And, as with most fermented probiotic-rich foods, radishes are calming to the digestive system.
- Fermenting radishes offers variety. While we think of radishes as having strong flavors, in ferments they act as a base for other flavors you dream up. If you’re a kimchi fan, you probably know that most kimchi recipes contain radishes. But did you also know that they can be fermented and sliced thinly to create a radish salad? (See “Radish Fennel Ferment.”) And if you like your radishes plain, fermenting them in a brine will yield simple pickles that are cheeky little bite-sized orbs of effervescence that can be popped straight into your mouth.
- Fermented radishes are tasty. Try fermented radishes at least once, even if you don’t particularly like radishes. It may surprise you how much the flavor changes. For example, that mustardy hot bite that radishes are famous for mellows out, so much so that it’s often unnoticeable once fermented. Fermented radishes stay bright and crunchy for months in the fridge, and the fermentation process captures them at their peak, allowing new layers of flavor to develop.
Keeping fermented radishes in your refrigerator is like having jars of instant salads that are ready to be plated, enjoyed as a side dish, or added to any wrap. Find three recipes below that can help you discover radishes as you’ve never known them before.
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Kirsten K. Shockey is the co-author of Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments. Kirsten and her husband began fermenting foods 20 years ago on their 40-acre smallholding, which grew into an organic food company. Read more at FermentWorks. Kirsten is on the editorial board of Mother Earth News’ new sister publication, Fermentation.