Radishes somehow seem like a well-kept secret, but I’m on a mission to give them the attention they deserve. Sure, they brighten up a vegetable platter. But a good radish is more than just a pretty face: that crunchy, peppery freshness is a delicious wake-me-up. Varieties include the oft-seen red globe (which is mildly peppery), icicle (a bit more peppery), and watermelon (mildly peppery and especially striking for its fuchsia hue and sweet flavor). The white-tipped red variety is known as the French breakfast radish, so named because it’s especially mild.
Radishes taste best in cool weather, before summer’s heat sets in, which makes them bitter. Bigger specimens like watermelon radishes can be good keepers—farmers often cellar them for best flavor. If you can, buy small radishes in bunches with the greens still attached; these are fresher than those in plastic bags, which may have been sitting around for a while. The tops should look bright green and fresh, and the radishes themselves should be firm and as unblemished as possible. When you get a bunch home, cut off the greens and refrigerate the radishes wrapped loosely in plastic.
Although I’ve seen recipes for glazed and braised radishes, I prefer to eat them raw. Halved and sprinkled with salt or smeared with sweet butter is a great start. Globe and icicle radishes add great crunch and flavor to sesame noodles and colorful slaws; they’re a fine stand-in for daikon (another radish). Best of all, radishes makes a delicious salad that’s a welcome change from tossed greens. I love Radish & Parsley Salad with Lemon.