Radishes have to be one of the most visually appealing vegetables piled high at farmers’ markets and when I see a mountainfull of multi-coloured radishes at the Atwater Market in Montreal, I just can’t resist.
Not only am I addicted to the crunch and freshness of biting into a crisp radish, but the exciting part of being at a big city market is the huge volume of a good thing. There was a colossal pile of traditional red radishes next to an equally bountiful pile of sexy French radishes, you know the long ones with the white tips. Next to them were Easter radishes; they’re round and in colours of pink, purple and white, the colours we associate with Easter. Last were white radishes piled in a fourth impressive mound, but looking a bit pale and uninspiring.
We bought a bag full. My husband Jon loves the peppery bite of traditional radishes and I like the milder crunch of a French radish, so we split the bag half and half.
Radishes are a root vegetable related to the turnip and horseradish family. Traditional radishes are almost hot with a mean bite that puts me off. But if you’re like me and you love the flavour of radishes without the fierceness of its bite, you’ll love the crisp texture and a mild to delicately sweet flavor of a French radish.
French radishes, often called French Breakfast radish have an elongated shape that can grow to approximately three inches in length with a bright red outer skin that turns white at the root base.
I’m told by the market vendor that there are two main categories of radishes, spring and fall radishes and this is based on the time they’re harvested. Spring radishes are harvested early in the growing season resulting in a smaller radish. Fall radishes are harvested right now and they’re larger. Radishes have a relatively short growing season so they can be planted in the spring and fall, but they don’t like the summer heat. When they’re grown and harvested in temperatures that are hot, they become bitter.
We’ve all eaten radishes raw when they’re sliced in salads, served as hors d’oeuvres or added to a sandwich. They’re also great roasted, sautéed and braised, served as their own vegetable dish – try them as a new dish to accompany your barbecued meats.
My favourite way to eat radishes are on a large slice of rye bread, slathered with lots of sweet, creamy butter. I sprinkle coarse sea salt on the butter and place layers of thinly sliced radishes on top. It’s both crunchy and creamy, refreshing and soothing – guess what I had for dinner that night?
When you’re buying radishes at a traditional grocery store, choose the ones that are firm, crisp, and without blemishes. Remove the radish greens and place in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic to keep fresh for several days.
Whether your barbecue dinner includes radishes or not, have a delicious summer with family and friends sharing the best food from the farmers’ markets.
Roasted Radishes with Candied Garlic
2 bunches small radishes
12 cloves of candied garlic or 1 head of fresh garlic, cloves peeled
2 tablespoons (30 mL) soy oil
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Wash the radishes and place them in a baking tray. Add the candied garlic or the peeled cloves of garlic.
Drizzle the radishes and garlic in the soy oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir well to make sure they are coated in the oil and seasonings. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Half way through, stir to make sure they are evenly cooked. Serve hot.