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Take a second look at versatile radishes

By on May 30, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Bonnie OrrBy Bonnie Orr

This veggie grows in many colors and many tastes — yet it is almost only served as a snack on the side of the plate, as an hors’ d’oeuvre or as the last remnant of a vegetable platter.

Radishes deserve a second look because they are easy to grow. They are delicious cooked as well.

Radishes are round or elongated, black, white, red or pink. Daikon radish, a very large white vegetable, is featured in Asiatic dishes both cooked and raw. The growing conditions dictate the heat in the taste.

Often people plant radishes in early, early spring because the back of the seed package says to plant the seeds as soon as the soil can be worked.

But cold soil means poor germination rate, and, worse, a poor tasting vegetable. Radishes planted in early spring can take six to nine weeks to reach maturity, and this slow growth often produces radishes that are too hot and too woody.

This year plant a variety of radishes and try them cooked rather than just eating them raw.

Don’t despair if your radishes are too hot and woody; let the plants go to flower and eat the little white flowers and young leaves in salads. They taste sweet and peppery.

A good time to plant radishes is in late August. The soil is warm, the seeds will germinate rapidly, and the roots will swell to harvest size within a month.

Plant another crop in mid-September and be eating fresh radishes as late as November.

I like to plant some radishes in June — especially the white-tipped red French radish which matures in June in three weeks.

Radishes, of course, can be nibbled raw straight from the garden or eaten as sprouted seeds, sliced thin, sprinkled with salt and nibbled with a beer, sliced as a topping for tacos. Moreover, they can be grilled, fried, sautéed, pickled.

Pickling is one of the most common ways to preserve radishes. It can take just a few days to pickle radishes.

My friend, Flo B. Free, has made this dish for 40 years to serve for barbecues. She keeps it for up to a month in the refrigerator — or at least plans to, but most of the pickles are eaten within a week or so.

Flo’s pickled radishes

5 cups radishes, root and leaves removed

3 cups cauliflower broken into tablespoon-sized florets

2 small hot chilies whole

2 cups sliced carrots

2 sliced green peppers

Pickling sauce:

2 cup cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

2 teaspoons salt

Bring the sauce ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add the vegetables and stir well. Cool.

Put in a large glass jar with a tight lid.

Let sit in refrigerator for 3 days before sampling.

I love the French radishes, sliced thinly, sautéed in butter and served on slices of homemade white bread. This is a perfect accompaniment to a cool summer soup.

Daikon radish is sweet and crunchy raw. It is large enough to grate coarsely. Sprinkle with two tablespoons lemon juice. Serve with freshly barbecued trout or salmon. The Daikon becomes even more flavorful when roasted.

Roasted Daikon

radish

Oven 400 degrees

5 minutes prep/ 20 minutes roasting

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 red bell pepper cut into chunks

2 large Daikon radishes peeled and sliced into rounds

3 carrots peeled and sliced into rounds

2 shallots, peeled and quartered

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon minced basil

Salt/pepper

Preheat the oven. Put the roasting pan in the oven to preheat as well.

Distribute the vegetables on the pan.

Roast for 20 minutes.

Take out of the oven.

Sprinkle on the vinegar, basil and salt and pepper. Let stand five minutes.

Serve as a vegetable dish or as an appetizer.

Radish Soup

This would make a wonderful June luncheon on the patio.

20 minutes; serves 4

5 cups of sliced or grated radishes

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup of buttermilk

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup finely minced chives

1/4 cup finely minced parsley

In a large saucepan, melt the butter.

Add the radishes and sauté until slightly soft.

Stir in the cornstarch.

Add both milks. Warm to a simmer.

Stir in the herbs.

Serve either hot, cold or room temperature with crusty bread and fresh berries.

Bonnie Orr — the dirt diva — cooks and gardens in East Wenatchee.

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