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We all tend to think of radishes as one of the first fresh offerings of spring, but because they love the cool weather and grow quickly, they have a second season in the fall. At farmers markets, bright bouquets of them—crimson, magenta, lavender, rose, and snow white—are stacked alongside more-purposeful bunches of carrots, parsnips, turnips, and celeriac. They are all root vegetables, yet I have a sneaking suspicion that the earthy, aromatic soup-pot heavyweights view their thin-skinned pretty-as-a-picture relation as frivolous, even feckless. With cultivar names like Cherry Belle and Snow Belle, what more could you expect?

I don’t care. And anyway, they’d be wrong. The radish is plenty rich in vitamins and minerals; it’s a member of the Brassicaceae family, after all, which also includes kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. In the 18th century, radishes were considered “powerful fortifiers of digestion,” a remedy for kidney stones, and an antidote for the common cold.

I can’t get enough of them. They’re delicious in a salad with fennel and watercress, but generally I don’t get that fancy. Given a quick rinse and plopped on a cutting board with a paring knife, a little bowl of flaky Maldon sea salt, and an enjoyable chuck of butter, they’re our every-night hors d’oeuvre, best enjoyed in the kitchen while cooking supper. Crisp, juicy, and gently peppery, they’re just what’s called for as we ease into heartier winter food—lamb stew, Sam’s first brisket of the season, warm lentil salad with kielbasa.

Radishes are also wonderful sautéed, roasted, or braised, but the only thing I ever get around to cooking is the radish tops. They are especially fresh and vibrant in the fall, with great old-fashioned turnipy flavor. After washing them thoroughly (they can be very sandy), stir them into leek-potato soup or toss them into the pot with your favorite braising greens. Fall, meet Feckless.


Comment from Naomi
Time November 13, 2013 at 8:11 am

Love, love, love, roasted radishes, especially the yellow ones.

Comment from Ashley
Time November 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm

as always, love your writing and information!

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