By Tory L. Davis and Amanda Hirsch
Radishes—those small but mighty, peppery members of the mustard family—have been eaten across the globe since prehistoric times. Rumors of radishes depicted on Egyptian pyramids can’t be confirmed, despite ancient Greek tales about the vital role the veggie played in the builders’ diets, but one thing is certain: radishes of all shapes, sizes and colors continue to be part of a healthy diet for people around the world.
Packed with vitamin C, “radishes are detoxifying,” says Clean Plates founder and nutritional consultant, Jared Koch. A root vegetable that grows year-round in a range of climates, the crunchy, sharp radish also has benefits for thyroid health and is good for clearing up congestion, Koch says.
With fun names like “Cherry Belle” and “Fuego,” radish varieties range from the reddish bulbs currently on display in farmers markets to the horseradish-hot, Egyptian black radishes, to the large, white, carrot-shaped daikon radishes used in Japanese cuisine, Korean kimchi, Chinese pudding and Indian pickles. (Dr. Oz calls daikon radish one of the 5 cheapest health foods for under $1).
Buy fresh, local radishes when you can, ideally with their piquant, bright green leaves attached. Look for smooth, firm roots and store them in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic.
Here are some recipes that deliver the nutritional benefits of common red radishes in a range of tasty packages:
Radish and Avocado Sandwich
The moment you get home from the farmer’s market, slice up some radishes, douse them in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and pair them with avocado in this simple Radish and Avocado Sandwich from Martha Stewart Living. The crunch of the radish contrasts nicely with the buttery avocado, which boosts its own nutritional superpowers — including 60% more potassium than a banana!
Whole Wheat Orechiette with Bitter Greens and Radishes
For a tasty and simple weeknight dinner, try the Whole Wheat Orechiette with Bitter Greens and Radishes from Epicurious.com. The recipe calls for a green like escarole, but why not simplify your shopping list and use the spicy radish greens themselves?
Radishes and Anchovies
For those with bold palettes, chef Pablo Osorio of Thirstbaravin in Crown Heights, Brooklyn offers up a tantalizing recipe for Radishes and Anchovies in a recent issue of New York magazine. Anchovies are “high in Omega-3 fatty acids, low in mercury, and good for your bones due to high levels of Vitamin A and calcium,” Koch notes. This reminds me of a dish at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, California, a few years back: heirloom radishes brushed with anchovy butter and sprinkled with lavender sea salt. Delicious!
Salad and Salsa
Finally, make a splash at summer picnics by replacing potato or macaroni salad with this Buttermilk Farro Salad from 101 Cookbooks, which pairs radishes, zucchini and fennel with the ancient Etruscan grain, farro, and a striking buttermilk dressing. Also perfect for cookouts: Eat Well’s colorful Mango-Radish Salsa, which pops thanks to the contrasting spicy-sweet-sharp flavors of radish, mango and lime. Bon appétit!
What’s your favorite radish recipe? Tell us in the comments!