Bright and pretty, radishes are the first root crop of spring and a sure sign of more good things to come. Radishes of many varieties are popular around the world – large, white daikon in Japan, for instance, and the black radish that has been grown for centuries in Eastern Europe.
Here in the United States we used to find only the bright red round Cherry Belle radishes (sometimes lopped from their greens and sold in plastic bags) but now farmers are experimenting with a whole array of colors and shapes: crimson, purple, pink, white and white-tipped, round, olive-shaped, oblong, even long. The flesh is almost always snowy white but can also be streaked with pretty pink striations.
Radishes have a lovely crisp texture and are mildly peppery in flavor. Cooked, they are not unlike their relative the turnip, and can be an intriguing addition to a meal. Light braising until crisp-tender is best. More commonly, however, we eat them raw. Use radishes in salads or in one of these lovely hors d’oeuvres.
As a bonus, snip and save the greens, if they are in good shape. If they are small and tender, add to a salad; if older and a bit tougher, cook and serve as you would any green.
Radishes with Sweet Butter and Sea Salt
This simple crudité is a specialty of the French countryside. If you have a source for fresh local butter, this is a wonderful use for it.
Unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt or coarse salt
Trim radishes, leaving about an inch of stem and cut in half lengthwise, trying for some stem on each half to use as a handle. Serve with a ramekin of softened butter, to spread on the cut side of the radish, and salt for sprinkling.
Radish and Fruit Butter Canapés
These canapés require a little effort, but they are simply beautiful – and delicious.
30 to 40 canapés
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon apricot preserves or marmalade, chopped if pieces of fruit are large
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus some left as spears for garnish
8 to 10 thin slices of bread, whole wheat or white
About 6 radishes, thinly sliced
Stir together the butter, preserves and chopped chives. Remove bread crusts and cut each slice into quarters; spread with fruit butter.
Arrange three or four radish slices on each, top with chive spears, sprinkle with salt and serve.
These can be made an hour or two ahead, covered with damp paper towels, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated.
Radish and Melon Salsa
Serve this colorful, nontraditional salsa with a basket of chips or spoon a dollop on crackers that have been spread with soft goat cheese or cream cheese. It’s also delicious served with grilled fish or chicken.
About 1½ cups
1 cup diced honeydew or cantaloupe melon
½ cup chopped radishes
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeños, fresh or pickled
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional
In a bowl, stir together all ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt. Set aside at cool room temperature for an hour or so to allow flavors to develop, or cover and refrigerate for up to a day.
Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula. Contact her via Facebook at: