This is a post that will be most appreciated by gardeners or by those with ready access to really fresh farmers' market produce.
When I started planting my garden this year, I wanted to use up some old seeds. Knowing that germination rates go down as seeds age, I just planted my radishes closer together, thinking that I'd get at least a few for salads and snacking.
Well, I think that every single one of those seeds sprouted. That could have been good news except that radishes planted too closely to each other produce tiny little barely there roots instead of the round and rosy red salad garnishes I had hoped for. After all, why else plant radishes?
This is what I envisioned:
...but this is the most that grew underground:
At least the rest of the plants were lush, with bright green leaves crowding the entire row.
Never wanting to admit failure, I was reminded of research I did a few years ago when provided with an abundance of similarly lovely radish leaves. Upon doing some research, I learned that a) radish leaves are not only edible but also very nutritious and b) they can make a great pesto. With a little experimentation, I developed this tasty, generally economical spread:
Going back to my own blog post, I made up pesto--two batches worth--and loved it. However, I still had radish leaves and needed to branch out into some other recipes. A little more research revealed that radish leaves are great both cooked and raw.
Not yet ready to venture into cooked radish greens, I soon had a series of wonderful salads, made up of thinnings from the rest of my garden. The radish leaves combined beautifully with tiny beet greens, baby kohlrabi and broccoli stems, and the earliest chard and spinach leaves.
Add in some tomatoes and cucumbers (still from the store as my Minnesota plants are just starting to blossom), a little feta cheese, walnuts or perhaps hard-boiled egg wedges, and a good dressing, and the results were wonderful.
Still, the radishes kept growing, and I knew I needed more ideas. While I had been hesitant to try them cooked (would they be too strong, too bitter?), one thinning that resulted in a gallon of bright green leaves pushed me into this previously untested area.
The result? Unexpectedly mild greens perfect in a stir fry. For this, my first experiment, I didn't really have a recipe. Instead, I just went to the refrigerator and started cooking with what I had. Following is a rough approximation of what resulted. It could be endlessly modified by whatever vegetables you have on hand and what mood you are in--curry, Mexican, Italian? Just change the seasonings to fit your tastes.
As I reviewed all the kinds of ways radish greens have been used in various cuisines, there is one thing that is clear: these are greens that need to be used before the plant begins to shoot up blossoms. If you wait too long, the flavor will become too strong, and the leaves will be fibrous--and prickly. In fact, as they continue to grow, the "prickliness" of the leaves may mean you'll want to use them cooked rather than in salads, just for the mouth feel changes.
Finally. If you manage to miss a stray radish in the garden, one more surprise: that delicate little blossom with the geraniums in the photos above and below is actually a radish blossom, one that is lasting for days as a tiny cut flower. It's nice to discover that these quick to grow plants (often ready for harvest barely a month after planting) can add so much versatility to a garden's harvest.
If you are a gardener wondering what to do with the radishes that are more top than radish, try out a salad or stir fry tonight. Miss even that stage of development? Pick the blossoms and enjoy a mini-bouquet!
Stir Fry with Radish Greens
Use any combination of the following vegetables, adding in whatever else you might have: corn, diced tomatoes, broccoli, shredded cabbage, etc. This time, I used:
- coarsely chopped red onion
- garlic cloves, diced or minced
- carrot, sliced
- celery, diced
- zucchini, sliced
- jalapeno, with seeds and white "pith" cut away
- (though the picture shows a potato, I made a last minute decision not to include that)
- radish greens--probably about 4 to 5 cups of greens for 2 to 3 total cups of chopped vegetables--at this stage, I discarded all but the smallest of stems and used only the leaves
- For this version, I used a little chicken bouillon powder and some curry powder and garam masala. I also mixed in some mango peach salsa (not very Mexican and well-suited to the curry flavor) and a little raspberry juice, just because I had it.
- Other options:
- Mexican--chicken bouillon powder, cumin, coriander seeds, perhaps some chopped cilantro, extra garlic
- Italian--seasoning salt, fresh or dried basil, black pepper, marjoram or Italian seasoning blend
- "Californian"--salt and lots of fresh herbs--basil, marjoram, thyme, etc.
2. Add in the salsa (and raspberry juice)
The method I used? Heated some olive oil in a pan, sauteed the vegetables lightly with the seasonings sprinkled over and then stirred in the chopped radish greens along with a bit of raspberry juice (just because I had it) and a little peach mango salsa that was more sweet than Mexican so it went well with the curry. I covered the pan and cooked just a few minutes more, until the greens were wilted and just slightly soft. Taste for salt, add a bit of hot sauce if desired, and serve, over rice if desired. Yogurt is a good topper as well.