Winter Radishes: from humble to fabulous!

Winter Radishes: from humble to fabulous!

by Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager

So why are we talking about radishes in December? Aren’t they a spring vegetable?

Winter radishes are a different animal than their relative the spring radish. Harvested in the fall or early winter, they will keep for months in cold storage. It’s surprising to customers how big winter radishes are and because of that are often confused with rutabagas or turnips. They are crunchy and pungent, and perhaps a tad milder than their smaller cousins. The Watermelon or Beauty Heart radish has a light green exterior and bright magenta pink interior. It looks and tastes stunning on an hors d’oeuvre tray served with a dab of bright green Gremolata (AKA parsley pesto – see recipe below). Earthy in appearance, the Black Spanish radish is white on the inside and a rugged black on the outside. It is spicier and is more comfortable appearing with a slice of sharp cheddar and a mug of dark beer than at a dinner party. Daikon radishes are also in the “winter” category of radish. White in color and long in length, they are rather impressive in size. Some can grow up to 20 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter! They have been consumed in Asian foods for centuries. In Korea they are fermented into Kim Chi with fish sauce and sugar. They are delightfully crunchy in salads, either grated or sliced. They may also be sprinkled with rice vinegar and salt or sugar for a pickled radish.

Many are surprised that you can actually cook winter radishes. Their hardiness makes them hold up better when subjected to heat than tender spring radishes. They have a pleasant toothsome texture when roasted or braised. Mix them with your favorite root vegetables for a colorful mélange and serve over quinoa or couscous and drizzle with a tangy dressing. See recipe below. Soups and stews are also a good fit for winter radishes.

Not only are they beautiful and tasty, they are good for you. Radishes are a cruciferous root vegetable. They are from the Brassica family. Like their cousins broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower they contain a powerful antioxidant called Sulfurophane, which studies have shown to have a proven role fighting against cancer. They are also high in Vitamin C and are low in calories. Radishes contain many phytochemicals like indoles which are detoxifying agents and zea-xanthin, lutein and beta carotene, which are flavonoid antioxidants. Radishes have been consumed for centuries in China and other Asian countries and have been purported to aid in overall health. According to a popular Chinese proverb, “Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea, let the starved doctors beg on their knees.” (source:

Gremolata (aka – Parlsey Pesto)
by Kevin D. Weeks.

Gremolata is a combination of lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and olive oil. Traditionally an addition to Osso Bucco (braised veal shanks), it is also great as a garnish on grilled or roasted lamb, pork chops, beef, and even roasted potatoes. Gremolata is best made fresh, it doesn’t keep for more than a day, but is also best if it has an hour or so before serving for the flavors to meld. Fortunately it only takes about 5 minutes to make.

Serves 2. Prep Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 5 minutes

Zest of one large lemon*
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic; crushed
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil

Thoroughly combine all in ingredients in a small bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate
for an hour.
*Note: Lemon zest is the outer yellow peel of a lemon. When zesting a lemon, be
careful not to include any of the white pith below the skin because it’s bitter. You can
use a vegetable peeler to cut strips of peel and then finely chop them, but the best
tool for the job is a Microplane grater.

Roasted Radishes and Root Vegetables with Rosemary and Mustard
by SallyCan

I like cooking radishes with roasted vegetables because they don’t get too sweet. The dressing for this recipe calls for onion seeds, which can be found in an Indian foods market. You could leave them out if you can’t find them. Try to find them, though as they’ve got a rich, nutty flavor. I first bought them to use in Monica Bhide’s recipe for Salmon with Kumquat Chutney. She also uses onion seeds in a turnip recipe, which is very Indian in flavor. Since this is paired with rosemary, this dish is more American in character. Serves 2, can be doubled or multiplied

1 pound mixed radishes and other young
root vegetables: radishes (any variety),
parsnips, carrots, new potatoes
1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp olive oil
A few good sized sprigs of fresh rosemary,
1 ½ tsp minced, the rest cut in
Kosher salt
½ tsp onion seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
3 Tbsp white wine
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp prepared coarse grain mustard
½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2” sprigs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub radishes and other root vegetables. Peel, if necessary. If your vegetables are small, leave them whole, but if any are really large, cut them into 1, 2, or 3” pieces so that everything is approximately the same size. Mix melted butter and olive oil. Mix 1 T. of butter and olive oil mixture with minced rosemary, and save the remaining olive oil and butter mixture for the dressing. Toss the vegetables with rosemary, butter, and olive oil mixture. Place vegetables, along with 2” rosemary sprigs, on a baking pan and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake them, turning occasionally, for anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes, until they are soft and have begun to brown, but are not dried out. Remove from oven. While vegetables are cooking, make your dressing. In a small frying pan or saucepan, over medium heat, warm 1 tsp. reserved butter/olive oil for a minute or so, then add onion seeds and mustard seeds. After about 30 seconds, when they begin to pop, add white wine and water. Turn heat to low, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Scrape this, with any liquid and butter/oil still in the pan, into the remaining butter/ olive oil mixture. Whisk in prepared mustard. Add salt and pepper, sparingly, to taste, keeping in mind that you’ve already salted the vegetables. To serve, arrange roasted radishes and other vegetables on a plate and pour dressing over top of them. Garnish with more fresh rosemary, if you like.

Winter Radish Salad

From the Emily Horton collection
Serves 1

1 to 2 winter radishes (Spanish black,
watermelon, or green meat radishes
work especially well)
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
Sea salt
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted (black sesame
seeds look especially striking with Spanish
black radishes)
Wash, peel, and grate the radishes on the large holes of a box grater. Alternatively, slice the radishes into thin rings with a sharp knife or a mandoline. Put the grated radishes in a bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar. Toss gently, then drizzle with the oil and toss again. Season with salt to taste. Garnish with the sesame seeds, and serve.

Japanese Vegetable Stew

8 cups water
8 tsp brown rice miso
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large carrots, cut into pieces
2 cups chopped yams (with peels)
3/4 cup sliced daikon radish
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 cup zucchini, cut into pieces
3/4 sliced shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup snow peas
1 1/2 cups sliced Napa cabbage

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add miso and oil.
Stir until miso is totally dissolved. Add carrots, yams, daikon, green onions and shitake mushrooms. Reduce flame and cook 5-7 minutes. Add any remaining vegetables and simmer for another 7-10 minutes. Serve with lemon, if desired.