I know what you're thinking. How can she possibly get a whole post out of radishes. If you know me well, you know I'm not often short on words. And I happen to love this subject.
Those of you who've been following my blog may already know that I attempt to include veggies on the menu at every meal. I'll expand more on that in a future post, but, as I did this morning, I often include radishes with breakfast. And no one is more surprised about that then I am.
As a young girl I remember thinking that radishes were a perfectly good waste of space in the grocery store. To my palate they were too bitter and too spicy, and they only made it to my mouth one time before I swore them off for life.
Luckily, life tends to refine your palate and helps you open up to trying things they may once have seemed intolerable to eat. For many years now my grown up taste buds have liked radishes. But over the last few years I think I can honestly say that I've developed a deep love for them. Those beautiful, bright red orbs that glisten after they're freshly washed with their faint peppery smell and that wonderful crunch as you bite into one.
Flavor is another story. Every once in a while a I buy a bunch of radishes and think, huh, these must be old because they just don't taste that great. Then last year I grew my own. Yuck! What a perfectly good waste of veggie garden space. The radishes I grew were horribly bitter and their texture was woody. What gives?
What I finally figured out is that size does matter. At least for radishes. And so does type. Different types of radishes can vary widely in their flavor from extremely bitter and turnip like to almost sweet with just a little spice. As far as size? Much like Goldylocks, you'll want to pick radishes that are not too big and not too small, but just right. About the size of a large marble is perfect. Too small and they're bland, too big they become tough and bitter.
My mistake in my garden last year? Planting a strong tasting variety and then leaving them in the ground too long. A good way to buy? Many grocers today offer both regular and organic radishes, and you're likely to be presented with several options this summer at your local farmers market. Look for radishes that are mostly uniform and of course just right in size, then, when no one is looking, taste the leaf and choose the one that tastes best. It will be more bitter and peppery then the radish itself so if the leaf tastes okay, you'll most likely enjoy the radish.
Once in your kitchen, radishes add color and a hint of spice to all kinds of salads. Green, potato, macaroni and egg salads all flourish with a little crunchy red goodness. I love them cut into quarters with just a sprinkle good sea salt. I add them to cream cheese to spread on whole grain baguette or cucumber slices. The French eat them with a smattering of real butter. Yum! Fresh radish leaves are a great addition to green salads and excellent sauteed with bacon. (wilty leaves not so much) And if you've never tried cooking them, they are great roasted or sauteed in a little olive oil.
I'm just starting to experiment with other members of the radish family, daikon, horseradish root, turnip, and so far have been pleasantly surprised by the results. I will keep you posted (ha! no play on words intended) as to my progress.
If you were less then thrilled the last time you tried a radish I'd encourage you to try another one. They're are a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants, and they help to maintain a healthy liver, (so you can drink more wine) and to improve digestion. And who knows? The cute little goodies may just surprise you.