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Put Radishes Center Stage for Fresh Spring Meals

The earliest crops are crunchy, spicy and ready to add zing to your spring dishes.

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Two years ago, I was saying as I planted seeds in the garden, “I must believe in these seeds, that they fall into the earth and grow into flowers and radishes and beans.” It is a miracle to me because I do not understand it. The very fact that they use glib technical phrases does not make it any less a miracle, and a miracle we all accept. Then why not accept God’s miracles?

These words from Dorothy Day reverberate through the hopeful season of spring planting, casting a reverent glow on the first fragile shoots of lettuce, herbs, peas—and radishes.

These latter spring crops are, for me, in a category all their own. Unlike the onions, beets, potatoes and carrots that grow beneath the soil, these bulbous vegetables are as speedy as they are satisfyingly colorful, flavorful and versatile. Within just a few weeks, some bracing greens are ready for the sauté pan, and the round, pastel-colored globes are ready to elevate our meals so they shout “spring!”

Radishes and Butter and Salt, Oh My!
A famous French snack is a plate of sliced radishes arranged on slices of baguette bread that’s been slathered with sweet cream butter. A sprinkle of salt on top of this open-faced “tartine,” and you’re in flavor and texture heaven—the crackle of baguette crust, the crisp sharpness of the radish, the creamy, silky butter and the dots of flavor-awakening salt are satisfying on every level, perfect before a meal or as the star of a simple spring lunch.

Salad Days
Radishes bring a special zing to any salad, from the most basic lettuce-based version to one in which radishes are the main ingredient. Try a simple salad of sliced radishes and cucumbers, dressed with a splash of lemon juice, a glug of olive oil, a shower of finely chopped fresh herbs (dill and parsley are friends of the radish) and a dash of kosher salt. Especially if served cold, this type of spring eating is refreshing and satisfying, bite by bite.

The Surprising Depth of Roasted Radishes 
Trim the tops off a bunch of fresh radishes, halve them and lay them cut side down in a baking dish. The result is going to be surprising in its sweetness, gently mellowed flavors and warm delivery of flavorful accents like garlic, lemon or earthy herbs like thyme. 

Drizzle radishes with oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for 10-20 minutes until they are fork-tender or browned to your desired extent. Serve as a side dish, topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or stir into a grain bowl, pasta dish or warm salad.

How do you enjoy radishes?

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