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Seasonal Eats: Raw Or Roasted—We Love Radishes!

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Multicolored Radishes at the Hollywood Farmers' Market (Heather Parlato/LAist)
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Radishes have been around all spring, but they're still abundant in the farmer's market, ready to enjoy! Yet another edible root vegetable from the Brassica family (kale, cabbage, broccoli. etc.), radishes are a popular garden choice because they grow relatively quickly in both spring and fall seasons. The raw flesh has a robust crunch and a pungent, peppery flavor due to an amino acid and an enzyme which combine when chewed to form the same compound found in mustard, horseradish and wasabi. The young leaves are edible, making a nice addition to soups, as are the seeds, which can be used as a spicy, crunchy seasoning.

Radishes are a good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Folate and Potassium. There are some indications that Brassicas, and specifically radishes, may have cancer-preventing properties, by increasing naturally-occuring substances that help eliminate carcinogens. However, the examples given refer to lab studies on rats, so the best we can do is enjoy radishes however we like them, and hope these possible benefits are true.

On my table, radishes are always served raw, whether in a salad or marinated as a snack. With a firm structure, sliced radishes are a great substitute for chips with hummus dips, or as crackers for stacked hors d'oeuvres. Radishes are also a favorite tea sandwich topper, try out sliced baguette with radishes and anchovy butter. Using the contrast of the colorful skin to the white interior, radishes can be carved into decorative shapes, like radish flowers.

Enjoy fresh radishes sliced thin in salads, like shaved fennel, radish and grapefruit salad or sheep's milk ricotta and vegetable ribbons. Kick it up with avocado radish salad with lime dressing, or try combining sweet and spicy by adding radishes to fruit salad.

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If you prefer more of a slaw, radishes pack a spicy, crunchy punch as an addition. Start with a simple radish slaw or dress it up, as in cabbage-radish slaw with cilantro-lime vinaigrette or cabbage and radish slaw with peanut dressing. If you like it fruity, try shredded napa cabbage salad with radishes, golden raisins an dijon dressing. Or, forget the cabbage and enjoy spinach, radish slaw with crispy chiles and pepitas.

In the condiment department, radishes are an ingredient in kimchi, and can make a nice radish and yogurt chutney. They also pickle up nicely, for side dishes and snacks.

For those of you growing radishes in the garden, here are some ways to use the leaves. Cook down and puree for rustic radish soup. Make up a radish leaf pesto. Or out this Bengali mulor shaak.

Finally, if you want to cook radishes, here are some delicious treats. Roast radishes with their greens, or on their own, as in roasted radishes with brown butter, lemon, and radish tops. They can also be glazed, or go for a quick braised radishes with shallots and vinegar.

In the spirit of light, crunchy salads in the summer months, I thought i'd take a favorite of mine, cucumber sunomono, and mix it up with radishes. Have it as a starter, or as a tangy compliment to a cocktail or chilled, mineraly sauvignon blanc.

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Radish-Cucumber Sunomono (Heather Parlato/LAist)
Radish Cucumber Sunomono

Ingredients:

2 large radishes, sliced thin or mandolined

1 medium cucumber, sliced thin or mandolined

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2 tbs rice vinegar

1 tb ponzu sauce

1 pinch pickled ginger

splash of brine from the pickled ginger jar - optional

Place sliced cucumber and radishes in a mixing bowl and sprinkle vinegar, ginger brine and ponzu evenly over the mix. Toss to coat all pieces, and serve in a bowl with a garnish of pickled ginger.

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I'd say how much this recipe serves, but I can't stop eating it. It could serve 2, but today it just serves one.