Crisp, colorful, radishes are early risers, one of the first things to pop up in our gardens and at farmers' markets each spring, giving us the first good crunch of the season.
They are eager to please cooks and eaters, yet they are so often underestimated. Meant for more than just a supporting role in a nice salad or plate of crudités, radishes are versatile root vegetables, which means they taste great when cooked too—especially when roasted or quickly sautéed. The best way to reap their rewards is to explore selections beyond the familiar round and red ones. They come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are spicy and sharp while others are buttery and tender.
No matter the shape, select well-formed, unblemished ones that feel firm when gently squeezed. There is no need to peel radishes, but their flavor is concentrated in the skin, so doing so will reduce their pungency when they pack too much of a punch.
The freshest ones come with their perky, peppery greens still attached, and the leaves are an unexpected bonus to enjoy raw or cooked. If you plan to eat them within a day or two, leave the greens attached. If you need to store them for a while, the roots will keep better if you remove the greens, which are delicate and go bad much faster. When storing, place loose ones in a clean, dry plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to one week. Any way you slice (or pickle or roast or puree) them, radishes add a welcome dose of color and heat.
There are hundreds of different types of radishes, but these are some of the most common and easy to find varieties in grocery stores, farmers' markets, and home gardens.