Radishes, of rosette fame, are underappreciated. Often relegated to garnish status, they’re typically not considered a vegetable deserving the same respect accorded their relatives, cabbage and kale. But radishes are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients. They’re inexpensive to buy, easy to grow, and one of the first things ready to harvest in a Northeast Ohio spring garden. I too was dismissive of these humble roots and did not see their potential for deliciousness until I had the French Breakfast radishes with butter and salt at the Greenhouse Tavern back when Jonathon Sawyer first opened the place in 2009. That was the beginning of my education.
Now my favorite way to eat them is brined. A quick, cold pickling mellows their bite and brings out their best qualities. Red-skinned varieties turn a lovely shade of pink. They’ve become a kitchen staple at our house, used in salads, as side dish with meats, on and in sandwiches of all kinds, and anything else that pairs up well with an acidic condiment.
Here’s what I do:
Slice radishes into thin rounds. Place in a glass jar or other non-reactive container with a lid. Combine equal parts good quality vinegar of your choice—I get consistently good results with cider, red wine, or rice vinegar—and water. For each cup of liquid add a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of kosher salt. I like to keep it simple and use only one other seasoning: typically dill, garlic, or coriander. But there are no rules so let your preferences be your guide. Mix well and pour over radishes. You need enough liquid to cover them completely. Put the lid on the jar and store in the fridge. The radishes are ready in 24 hours and keep well for a week to ten days.
As I write this, the husband and I are still waiting for the French Breakfast radishes he planted to be ready for picking. When they are we’ll eat them Sawyer style, and I’ll roast and sauté them too. And since radishes like cool weather, we’ll be putting in another end of season crop in August for fall eating. This time it’s going to be watermelon radishes. They look like their namesake, with white skin, green tinged “shoulders” and a rosy interior, and are almost to pretty to eat. But we will.
Journalist and author Laura Taxel started writing about local food before it became a trend, a movement or a scene. And she still hasn’t run out of stories to tell or wonderful things to cook and eat that are grown and produced in Northeast Ohio. We’re delighted that she’s agreed share her enthusiasms and her discoveries with a monthly blog here at EdibleCleveland.com.