The humble radish. I think that about describes it.
There are many varieties of radish: different colours of skin, different colours of flesh, different levels of pepperiness or spiciness, even different shapes. I have other posts on specific types (such as the horseradish), however, I wanted to start this one with your bog-standard radish, like the one in the image. Pink to red skin, bright white flesh and spherical shape.
Small yet remarkably majestic, it is often found as an addition to give peppery crunch to salads, but there is so much more that a radish can do.
A note on varieties
Although I am focusing on traditional radish varieties, and there will be other posts here for other radish recipes specifically for mooli (or daikon) and horseradish, the variety of radishes is incredible. I have created a small list here of the different varieties of radish you may encounter.
Uses in the garden:
The main draw to radish is that it is remarkably easy to grow, and grows quickly.
However, I do have a confession to make. Although I have successfully grown many radish plants without difficulty, my problem has been getting radishes to actually grow on these plants! Out of 300 seeds over 2 years, I can count the amount of actual radishes on one hand, and they were only on plants where I had forgotten I had planted them!
So possibly not great. In fact, that is an understatement. Radishes almost made me give up gardening. How can something that everyone finds so easy to grow be so elusive for me?
I am not a great gardener, but come on!
So, I did some research as to why I was so poor at growing radishes. Apparently, growing radishes is dependent on two main things, spacing and soil.
My first attempt to grow radishes was in a bed following on from some very healthy brassicas. I wanted to extend the season on the bed and knew this was a good way to do it. Except, I got no radishes, just the tops.
There is a really good reason for this, which is soil acidity/alkali levels. Brassicas prefer a more alkaline soil, and I had put down a healthy amount of calcium carbonate (under the guise of lime; I think chalk is a better description). Point one is: radishes prefer a more acidic soil, otherwise they do not produce, well, radishes. You end up just with tops.
So, I tried again this year. A few hundred seed scattered over a nice raised bed (2m by 1m).
Again, lots of tops but no actual radishes. I was perplexed. So I pulled many of them out. And then last weekend after a lot of warm weather, I saw several red skinned radishes peeking out of the top of the soil.
So, my second point: radishes like space to grow. Give them plenty and you will have a really good crop of radishes (I hope!).
Update 27/08/18: I came across some strange growing flowers that were tall and lanky, with bulbous seed pods at the top of them. This is what happens when you let the radish run to seed. But do not panic – there are many things that you can do with the seed pod (which are also edible!). I will have some recipes for these later on in the year.
Uses in the Kitchen:
Other than the traditional salad topping there are a range of uses for radishes that are quite exciting. This blog is about using the actual radish itself rather than other parts of the plant (such as the edible seedpods).
“I would like a Radish Martini” said no one, ever! However, you will be surprised to know that the radish works quite well in a cocktail as more than just a garnish.
- 1 grated radish, white fleshed
- Half a teaspoon of white sugar
- 1 thin slice of radish
- 2 measures of gin (50ml in total)
- 1 measure of Campari (25ml in total)
- 5ml of lemon juice
- 20ml of grapefruit juice
- 2 dashes of orange bitters (try agnostura or peychauds)
- Ice cubes
- Mix the grated radish with the sugar in the cocktail shaker.
- Fill the cocktail shaker with ice cubes
- Put the gin, campari, lemon juice, grapefruit juice and bitters into the shaker and shake until ice forms on the lid.
- Strain the mixture into an old-fashioned glass, with a large cube of ice (or, if you have one, a sphere of ice).
- Garnish with the slice of radish on the edge of the glass.
Summer radishes really lend themselves to light summer dishes and salads. However, there are also winter radishes, which can be optimised for cooking as well.
For the pickled radish
- Cherry belle radishes
- French breakfast radishes, sliced lengthways
- 1 mooli or daikon radish
- You need to make your slow pickled radishes. This needs to be done at least 24 hours before. To do this add the sliced French breakfast radishes and halved cherry belle radishes to a Kilner jar, packing as tightly as possible.
- Make the pickling vinegar. Add the vinegar, water, peppercorns, salt and mustard seed into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then mix in the sugar. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes then, using a funnel, carefully pour the hot vinegar into the preserving jar. Place a weight in the top of the jar so that no radishes are above the vinegar line.
- If you prefer a sweeter pickle add a bit more sugar, as this pickle can be a bit bitter otherwise.
I find that the colour from the skin tends to run and you will end up with salmon pink pickled radishes.
Look here at how to check for an airtight seal.
Beetroot preserved salmon with a radish salad
INGREDIENTS – FOR THE SALMON
- 1 red beetroot, grated
- 1 piece of salmon (about 500g)
- A teaspoon of salt
- Half a teaspoon of pepper
- A teaspoon of dried dill
INGREDIENTS – FOR THE SALAD
- A selection of 20 radishes, sliced into fine discs
- A teaspoon of chopped garlic chives
- 50ml olive oil
- A tablespoon of freshly grated horseradish, or if you want something not-as-hot use a couple of tablespoons of grated mouli.
- Place the salmon, skin side up in a plastic container.
- Mix the dill, salt and pepper with the grated beetroot, then place the mix in with the salmon.
- Seal the container and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
- When ready to use, take the salmon out of the container and pat dry.
- Mix the grated horseradish and the olive oil together, ensuring that the horseradish breaks out of a single clump.
- Add the garlic chives, chopped up into 5mm lengths and mix.
- Finally add the discs of radishes and gently coat all in the oil, chive and horseradish mix.
- Just before serving, slice the salmon into thin sheets and quilt onto a plate. Layer the radish salad over the top. Then serve.
And that’s all for now folks. You can find other radish recipes by clicking here.
Good cooking, and see you soon.