Monday’s Featured Vegetable: Radishes

This Monday, we feature radishes with recipes for Stir-fried Chicken with Radishes and Lime and Braised Radishes, as well as growing, storage and prep tips  from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.

Background

Radishes, which belong to the same family as cabbages and broccoli, are grown in a wide variety of colors and sizes. First cultivated in Europe, radishes can now be found across most of the globe but are most popular in Europe, Japan, and North America. The name for radishes may stem from the Greek “Raphanus,” which means “quickly appearing,” a tribute to the speed with which some radish varieties grow. Other sources claim the name “radish” comes from “radix,” which is the Latin term for “root.” Radishes are often one of the earliest spring crops as they only take a few weeks to grow from seed to maturity. Radishes have a distinct peppery flavor that comes from an enzyme in the plant’s skin. After all, radishes are related to mustards, so it is not altogether surprising that the two vegetables share flavor qualities. Although radishes range from purplish-black to multi-colored, most people are familiar with the small, round, red and white variety. Daikon radish is another popular variety most commonly associated with Asian cuisine.

Growing Tips

Like most members of the cabbage family, radishes are quite cold tolerant and grow well in cool conditions. Direct seed as soon as soil can be worked in the spring–transplanting is not recommended. Seeds should be planted no deeper than ½ inch. For a steady supply of radishes, sow seeds approximately every two weeks. You may want to avoid growing radishes mid-summer, as heat will cause them to become tough. Thin seedlings to allow room for roots to grow. Radishes appreciate well-drained, stone-free soil and frequent weeding. Keep plants well watered. To avoid flea beetle damage, protect young radishes with floating row cover. Harvest promptly when roots are about the size of a golf ball.

Storage

Upon harvest or purchase, radishes should be trimmed of their tops (which are also edible), wrapped loosely in plastic, and stored in the crisper drawer. Radishes will store better if not sopping wet, so avoid washing them until you are ready to use them. Radishes will keep well for more than a week in the refrigerator, but they are best when eaten as soon as possible.

Nutritional Benefits

Radishes are very small and composed primarily of water, so it can be difficult to take in significant quantities of nutrients from radishes alone.  Nonetheless, radishes are low in calories but high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium, and potassium. They also contain the minerals magnesium and copper.

Preparation

Always choose radishes that feel firm and look unblemished. If the tops are still attached when you purchase them, the leaves should be bright green and un-wilted. Most radishes are ready to eat after washing. You may want to peel larger, tougher radishes, such as winter storage varieties, before eating. Much of a radish’s flavor and nutritional value is in the peel, however, so eating the whole root is recommended.

Recipe: Stir-fried Chicken, Radishes, and Lime

Michael Burris, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested this recipes.  His comments are in italics below.

Meatless Monday Radishes

Photo courtesy of Michael Burris

Serves 6
(adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2001, and epicurious.com)

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ -inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or crushed chipotles (optional)
  • 6 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • ½  cup chicken broth
  • 2 bunches radish, trimmed and chopped (reserve leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 12 corn tortillas

Instructions

  1. Combine chicken, half the lime juice, and pepper flakes in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, then allow to stand 10 minutes.
  2. Heat half oil in large skillet.  Add chicken and onion sauté 5 minutes.  Add broth and cook another 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining lime juice.
  3. Heat remaining oil in same skillet.  Add radishes and sauté 2 minutes.  Transfer to bowl and add cilantro.
  4. Serve mixture atop warmed corn tortillas.  Garnish with reserved radish leaves if desired.

The recipe is supposed to serve 6. I would say 4-6. Other than that I thought the recipe was pretty solid. I used quite a bit of salt and a bit more red pepper flakes than what the recipe calls for because I like a bit more heat. The chicken became more flavorful the longer it sat in the broth and lime. It took me about 45 minutes start to finish. The cost for a meal like this is $12-$20 depending on the quality (organic/non-organic) and where you buy the ingredients.

Recipe: Braised Radishes

Serves 4
(adapted from Rachael Ray: foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches radish of relatively uniform size
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½  cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 large shallots or 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Trim and rinse radishes.  If they are large, you may wish to cut them in half.
  2. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and bring to a boil.
  3. Uncover, reduce heat to a steady simmer, and cook until stock cooks down and radishes are tender, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve warm.  This dish goes well with potatoes.

Note: for a variation on the recipe, try adding baby carrots (or larger carrots cut into smaller pieces).

To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.  We also need more volunteer home chefs for this project.

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