Say hello to one of this year's “it” vegetables.
The signs of spring come in many forms, from first flowers to new produce, a welcome wake-up call for the winter-weary. Amid this season's standard-bearer asparagus and cult-favorite ramps sprouts the humble radish. Often overlooked because of its less-than-appealing exterior, those in the know are rewarded by the radish's interior beauty and pleasing pepperiness. In 2018, look for radishes to continue gaining in popularity as plant-based cuisine goes mainstream.
Rachel Tayse, general manager of the organic berry and herb farm Foraged & Sown, extolls the virtues of what she considers the “most delightful product that farmers bring to markets and yet the most misunderstood by customers.” Tayse theorizes that this is largely thanks to the (pun intended) garden-variety Red Globe radish, often cut up as crudité and left last on the platter, unappealing because of its bitterness and a tough or woody texture. Tayse recommends venturing beyond the red-skinned, white-fleshed orb commonly found in groceries and looking instead to the multitude of varieties that come with fun monikers such as Easter Egg, Watermelon and Daikon.
In addition to exploring new radish varieties, creative dish preparations can be the key to unlocking flavor nuances between the types. There's the classically French slice of buttered toast topped with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkling of sea salt, but Tayse also recommends branching out by roasting radishes alongside beets, onions and sweet potatoes under a pork roast. Or you can take a note from our city's best Mexican food trucks—a quick, 24-hour pickle of radishes and jalapeños serves as a crunchy, palate-cleansing taco topper. But don't stop with the radish itself; go wild and use the whole vegetable, such as leveraging the tops in salads. Much like arugula, they're peppery and spicy.
As for sourcing fresh radishes this spring, Tayse points to Wayward Seed Farm, whose products are often found at the Worthington Farmers Market, and Peace, Love and Freedom Farm at the Clintonville Farmers Market. Or take a stab at growing your own. Tayse says most radishes are “a very quick turnover crop, about 45 days from planting,” and she recommends getting the seed into the soil by about the second week of May. She likes French Breakfast and Easter Egg varieties and suggests City Folks Farm Shop or Oakland Nurseries as great seed sources. The best news? Radishes offer two harvests, so repeat the process in August for another harvest in the fall.