Dear Il Piatto Blu,
When I get my radishes at the farmers' market (white icicle radishes, in case you were wondering), they come with the greens attached - a lot of greens, almost like a veggie two-for-one! Are these greens edible or poisonous? If they are edible, what's the best way to prepare them?
Jocelyn in Philadelphia
Radishes are delicious and if you are lucky, like our friend Jocelyn here, you will find them at a farmers market with the lovely green tops still attached. Not only can these greens indicate freshness of the radish (they should be springy to the touch and a healthy green color, not droopy or brownish), but they make a wonderful vegetable in of themselves, especially as they are not poisonous. If you plan to make it a two-for-one deal, look for smaller leaves atop your radishes and again be sure that they are fresh and healthy looking. These young and tender radish greens will cook up quickly, much like swiss chard and with a peppery flavor. Here are some ideas for preparation:
- Stir-fry. Pick through your leaves and wash and dry them well (they can be gritty with soil, especially those from farmers markets). If they are tiny, simply toss them in as they are, otherwise slice them into a chiffonade. Prepare a hot pan with 2 tablespoons sesame oil (olive or peanut oil would be fine as well), then add 2 cloves minced garlic and saute for just under 1 minute to flavor the oil. Toss in your radish greens and move them around quickly until they wilt--this will probably take just a minute or so. Add in a drizzle of tamari and some rice wine vinegar and cook for just another 30 seconds or so. You can eat them up just like this or top with some sesame seeds, or crumble up toasted sheets of nori and use that as an accent flavor.
- Mix into soup. Make your favorite minestrone using summer farmers market tomatoes and zucchini as well as chickpeas and pasta in an exciting shape (maybe wheels or radiatori?). Stir in thinly sliced radish greens right before the end of cooking, along with a handful of grated parmesan.
- As part of a delicious rice bowl. Follow the basic steps for the God of Cookery's favorite dish, and top your steamed brown rice with the sauteed radish greens, then layer BBQ pork ( for vegetarian version, use tempeh or flavored, pressed tofu sliced into thin strips) and one fried egg over the top.
- Meatball filler. Well, clearly not for vegetarians, but it would be delicious to mix ground turkey with ground pork sausage, add in the sauteed radish greens, minced garlic, salt, pepper and any other favorite herbs, form into balls, then saute in olive oil. When they are nicely browned, simmer them in a favorite tomato sauce for about an hour, then enjoy over pasta or in a meatball sandwich on a hoagie with melted cheese.
- Veg balls. A vegetarian version would be to chop at least a pound of cheap white mushrooms, then saute them with minced onion and garlic until browned, add radish greens until they wilt, then mix this with tamari, brown rice or bulgur, then shape into little balls for meatballs. Add egg or grated cheese if it needs a binder. Saute the balls as above in olive oil. Obviously any green would be good for this, but radish greens have an especially nice flavor.
- Raw in salads or sandwiches. If you love the peppery bite and it isn't too strong for your taste, just add tiny young radish leaves in with the rest of your greens in a big salad. Just be sure to use a dressing to complement the sharp flavor, like a fresh lemony vinaigrette, rather than anything creamy.