Last weekend, during a garden visit by a group of local Master Gardeners, the conversation turned to what to do with too many radishes. Autumn is the best season for growing radishes where I live, and many gardens (including mine) are bursting with little red salad radishes, purple plums, or hefty daikons.
“We eat most of them roasted,” I said, because I often include them in pans of roasted vegetables alongside potatoes and carrots. But as my guests described their tastiest radish recipes for pickles, salads and radish toast, I couldn’t help but get excited about repeating my best radish dishes and trying a few new ones.
There is no hurry. Once harvested, trimmed, washed and patted dry, all types of radishes will keep in plastic bags in the fridge for at least a couple of months. This gives you plenty of time to try a few new radish recipes like the favourites below.
That said, it is crucial to clean, trim and refrigerate radishes as soon as they are picked. Intact leaves draw moisture from the roots, so cutting them off along with long root tips helps keep radishes crisp in storage.
Crunchy Salads and Sandwiches
You don’t need authentic 'French Breakfast' radishes to enjoy fresh radishes for breakfast. Good bread, butter, thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkling of salt is a great start for the day, or as an anytime snack. Sliced radishes can be subbed for pickles on sandwiches, and thickish slices can be enjoyed with any type of dip.
Beautiful watermelon radishes are at their best when thinly sliced with a sharp knife and featured in plated salads. Cucumber slices or orange sections are can’t-miss accompaniments in terms of both colour and flavour.
Quick Pickled Radishes
Any type of radish can be fermented into salty pickles that store for months, which is a particularly good use for daikons and other large Asian radishes.
Refrigerated pickled radishes are much faster to make, and they keep their crunch for weeks. Simply place sliced radishes in a clean jar, and cover with a hot brine made of 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Add garlic or herbs at will, stash in the fridge, and start enjoying after two days.
The ’Helios’ radish variety has yellow skin, but no radish has naturally yellow flesh. Yellow pickled radishes, known as takuan in Japan and danmuji in Korea, are made from white daikon radishes stained yellow with saffron, turmeric or yellow food colouring.
To make yellow pickled radishes, peel and thinly slice one large or two medium daikon radishes. Place in a heavy zip top bag with 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon turmeric, and massage gently to distributed to seasonings. Refrigerate for a day or two, then massage again before transferring the mixture to a clean jar. Yellow pickled radishes accumulate juice as the salt permeates the radishes, so they need more frequent checking than radishes pickled in a vinegar brine.
Cooking with Radishes
I love Asian food, and for years I have tried to make Chinese turnip cake, Lo Bak Go, a classic dim sum dish which is actually made with daikon radishes rather than turnips. Although my concoctions taste good enough, they never set up quite right, probably due to my lack of skill using rice flour. However, I can make killer pan fried daikon cakes, which are rather like potato latkes without the potatoes.
Many of the radishes I store in the produce drawer will make their way into pans of roasted vegetables, and I am forever amazed at how cooking mellows the flavour of radishes while celebrating their juiciness. Please try roasting radishes if you have not done so already, or simply pan braise some radishes in butter to get a taste of what cooked radishes have to offer. Pan braised radishes is one of my stand-by harvest day recipes for not-quite-perfect radishes, and I look forward to making it every autumn. At my house, there is no such thing as too many radishes.