The best way to eat a radish is smeared in butter and dusted with crunchy sea salt. There’s no point arguing this. Many who’ve gone before have already proved you wrong. It’s important to use room-temperature butter — the most delicious, tangy, cultured butter you can find (extra points for homemade) — and the kind of coarse salt crystals that are big enough to catch the light and sparkle.
If you must dress up the radish (don’t you think it’s pretty enough already, with its smooth skin, supple shoulders and rainbow-bright, firm flesh?), well, fine then. Go ahead and slice those babies as thinly as you can and layer them atop a crusty baguette that has been split in half and has itself been buttered and salted. Here you have the fundamental building blocks of taste: bread, butter, salt and pepper (the radish is the pepper). Dark rye breads are pretty great in this role, too, as many people of Eastern European descent will tell you.
But the radish comes in such a fun array of costumes — black! hot pink! tie-dyed! — that it’s hard to resist playing with your food. And who knew you could cook a radish? (If you did, good for you, but most North Americans probably haven’t yet had the pleasure of snapping their teeth right through the middle of a hot, baked radish.) This is an especially good option for folks who don’t appreciate the spicy bite of radishes, because peeling them and cooking them are sure ways to tame their heat. The pungent note is actually a mustard oil enzyme, much of which lives in the skins, and the enzyme’s pungency softens at high temperatures. Roasted radishes taste a bit like mild, sweet turnips.
But the best reason to try roasting, braising, broiling, steaming or sautéing the humble radish is that putting old-fashioned foods to new uses can be delightfully creative and satisfying. Plus, adding your own contribution to your culinary heritage is a sure way to honor it. In this spirit of experimentation, you’ll no doubt discover that the simple old way — raw, dragged through butter and salt — really is the best. But fanning the flames of invention never hurt anybody.
If you have wonderfully inventive ways to use radishes, we’d love for you to share them with us and each other. Just email RealFood@MotherEarthNews.com with “Radish Recipes” as the subject line, or post a comment below.
Check out even more radical (and tasty) radish ideas: Maple Baked Radishes, Whole Radish Pasta, Daikon Cakes, Pink-and-Black Radish Bake, Watermelon Radish Pickles, Baked Vegetable Chips and Black Radishes the Russian Way.
More Radish Revelations
Radish greens are one part peppery, one part bitter, and several parts tasty. They’re rich in calcium and high in other nutrients. Sauté whole radishes with their greens in olive oil and garlic, then toss with pasta. Pan-fry small, whole radishes for an elegant pasta garnish.
Use thick-cut slices of radish as a cracker with various spreads or cheeses on top.
Marinate radishes in oil, citrus, mustard, salt, sugar and herbs for a delicious salad topping. Use the marinade as dressing.
Top tacos with shredded radishes instead of lettuce — the Mexican way!
Radishes don’t freeze well, but they’ll stay crisp and last longer in the fridge if stored topped and tailed in a bowl of water.
Radish seeds make delicious sprouts, and you can grow them indoors even in winter.
The thick, white, giant (sometimes 6 feet!) radishes known as daikon are the inspiration for the Hawaiian insult “daikon leg.” We just thought you should know.