Although the radish was a well-established crop in Greek and Roman times, one might assume that it was brought into cultivation at an earlier time, however, there are almost no archeological records available to help determine the radish’s history and domestication. Wild forms of the radish and its relatives, mustard greens and turnips, can be found over western Asia and Europe, suggesting that their domestication took place somewhere in that area. They are certainly revered and highly appreciated in Asia, particularly in Japan where the long, white daikon radish is a major food. The ancient Greeks prized radishes above all root crops, even making replicas of them in gold. The radish was a common food in Egypt long before the pyramids were built and was popular in ancient Rome as well. Columbus and the early settlers brought radishes to America where they are a favorite spring crop for home gardeners because they’re so easy to plant and they grow quickly.
There are two basic types of radishes- spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties are ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Champion’, ‘Burpee White’ and ‘Crimson Giant’. Winter radishes such as ‘China Rose’ and ‘Long Black Spanish’ store better and have a more distinctive flavor than the spring varieties. The Bunny Tail is an Italian radish that is slightly oblong in shape. It is mostly red and has a white tip. The Sicily Giant radish is a large heirloom variety originating from Sicily. It has a smooth, bright red skin and tastes hotter than some other radishes. It can grow up to 2 inches across the widest part. White Icicle radishes are completely white and are carrot-shaped. These radishes come from an Italian heirloom variety. Sometimes, they are simply called Icicle radishes.
Radishes are more versatile in the kitchen than many cooks realize. Besides adding crisp radishes to salads, try them sliced into stir-fries, stews and soups. Sauté them in butter for a minute and then serve with salt, pepper and herbs (especially chervil) for a different and unusual side dish. Long radishes are particularly good for sautéing. Slice them diagonally to obtain larger pieces and cook quickly to retain crispness. Grate radishes into your favorite slaws or dice them for egg and potato salads. Radishes can even be pickled!
- 6 long, red Italian radishes (or any radish)
- 6 thin slices prosciutto
- Olive oil
Wash and peel radishes, leaving stems intact.
Carefully wrap each radish in a slice of prosciutto.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.
Fresh Radish Dip
- 8 ounces large radishes (about 12), cut into very thin bite-size strips, chopped or grated
- 1/2 cup light sour cream
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Fresh dill sprigs
- Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Belgian endive leaves and/or fresh snow pea pods for dipping
In a large bowl stir together radish strips, sour cream, feta cheese, dill, lemon peel and lemon juice. Garnish with dill sprigs. Serve with fresh vegetables for dipping.
Radish and Olive Salad Recipe – Ravanelli con Insalata di Olive
While radishes are not the most common salad vegetable in Italy, you will find them in well stocked markets. Valeriana (Valerian) is a popular salad green belonging to the Valerianella family. It has a number of local names in Italy, including soncino and is also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad in the English speaking world. Substitute mache, arugula or wild baby lettuce for the valeriana.
- 1/4 pound (100 g) medium red radishes
- 2/3 pound (300 g) valeriana or other spring lettuce
- 10 pitted black olives
- Juice of one lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Salt to taste
Wash the radishes, pat them dry, remove the leaves and roots and thinly slice them. Put them in a bowl with the lemon juice and let them steep for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, wash and drain the valeriana. Drain the olives and slice them. Add the valeriana and olives to the radishes.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season to taste with salt (Italians rarely add pepper to salads) and toss. Let the salad rest for a minute or two before serving it.
Bresaola with Radishes, White Asparagus and Baby Greens
Bresaola is air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months until it becomes hard and turns a dark red color. It is made from top round and is lean and tender with a sweet, musty smell. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italy’s Lombardy region.
- 25 white asparagus stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup Champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated or high quality jarred horseradish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 42 slices bresaola, sliced paper thin
- 2 cups baby greens
- 1/2 cup baby frisée
- 1/2 cup shaved radishes
- Sea salt for garnish
- Marcona almonds for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and Champagne vinegar. Cook until very tender, about 12-15 minutes, dependign on thickness. Prepare an ice bath while the asparagus cooks. When the asparagus are cooked, transfer to the ice bath. Drain the asparagus and purée in a food processor. Add the horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a second ice bath. Add the basil, oregano and parsley to the water. Boil for 20 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Drain the herbs and squeeze out excess water. Combine the herbs and olive oil in a blender and blend on high. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
To serve, lay 7 slices of bresaola on each plate, overlapping the slices slightly. Spoon some asparagus purée on the bresaola slices. Toss the greens, frisée and radishes with the herb oil. Top each serving of bresaola with some salad and almonds. Season with sea salt and serve.
If you want a more substantial side dish add 12 baby carrots to the radishes in the recipe below and increase the cooking time to 20 minutes.
- 2 bunches fresh radishes, washed, dried, stems and tails removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking pan in the oven until hot.
In a bowl, mix the radishes with the oil, salt, pepper and thyme.
Place the radishes on the hot pan and put the pan back in the oven.
Every 5 minutes stir the radishes. Total cooking time should be 15 minutes, depending on the size of the radishes.
When ready, they’ll be blistered and pink with just a little bite left to the texture.
Serve as a side dish with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.
Pan-Roasted Radishes with Italian-Style Greens
Cooked radishes taste a lot like turnips, their Brassicaceae cousins, but with a milder flavor.
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced dried Mission figs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups trimmed radishes, halved or quartered (10 oz.)
- 8 cups baby spinach
- 4 cups radish greens or arugula
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup chopped black oil-cured olives
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
Place figs in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Plump 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until browned on one side (do not stir). Shake pan and cook, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes more or until radishes are just tender. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt. Set aside.
Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add spinach and radish greens and cook 2 minutes or until barely wilted, turning with tongs. Add pine nuts, figs, olives and radishes. Cover and cook 3 minutes more or until greens are tender and radishes are heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes
- 1 pound sugar snap peas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 medium radishes, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
- Freshly cracked pepper
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add snap peas; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain snap peas; run under cold water until cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, tarragon and salt until well combined. Toss snap peas and radishes in the dressing. Season with freshly cracked pepper.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
- Spring Carrot, Radish and Quinoa Salad with Herbed Avocado (cookieandkate.com)
- Cooking With Radishes (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- From the April Garden: A Crispy Green Salad. (happylittlesurprises.com)
- Radish and Springtime Eats (brownboxsoil.wordpress.com)
- 3 unexpectedly delicious ways to use grated radishes (twospoons.wordpress.com)
April 7, 2014 at 8:25 am
I love radishes, but really do not use them enough–never had very good ideas about what to do. Now you have solved that problem, Jovina. There are so many great ideas here, I can’t decide which to try first. Hmm, but I think that roasted radish salad is calling my name. Thank you!
April 7, 2014 at 9:24 am
You are welcome Anne. Thank you for your great comments.
April 7, 2014 at 8:40 am
Roasted radishes are one of my favorite side dishes. They are surprisingly flavorful. Thanks for sharing.
April 7, 2014 at 9:26 am
You are welcome. Radishes – so simple but not thought much. Happy to find another roasted radish fan.
April 7, 2014 at 8:50 am
Reblogged this on My Meals are on Wheels.
April 7, 2014 at 9:26 am
April 7, 2014 at 8:56 am
I love radishes and always so happy to see piles of them at the farmer’s market. Nice to see a whole post on them!
April 7, 2014 at 9:27 am
Thank you. They do look so pretty at the farmers’ market stand.
April 7, 2014 at 10:49 am
I like radishes with salt & pepper raw because that’s how my mom ate them when I was a kid. I’ll have to try roasting them – they look terrific like that.
April 7, 2014 at 10:54 am
thanks Pam. Always fun to try something new.
April 7, 2014 at 12:44 pm
I love all the different varieties of radishes at our Farmers Market. So many to choose from and lots of glorious colors. They make a gorgeous salad or crudite with dip 🙂
April 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm
Yes they are very attractive and work so well with dips. Thanks Karen.
April 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm
All of these recipes look so refreshing, I’m definitely going to have to pick up radishes next time I’m out!
April 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm
I hope you like one of them Mary. Thank you for taking time to comment
April 7, 2014 at 4:52 pm
What great recipes! I actually don’t like radishes very much, but since they’re so fresh and new in the spring, I want to use them. These will be a great start. Thanks!
April 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm
Perhaps you might like them cooked instead of raw. worth a try I guess.
April 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Love radishes in salads, but never thought of cooking them. Will try your recipes … thanks for suggesting
April 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm
Let me know if you like them cooked, Ambra