Radishes – getting to know the spunky root

By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
“Perhaps the most overlooked vegetable on the veggie-and-dip platter is the radish.” Edward Lee

The box of luscious, local, organic veggies arrived on the porch a few weeks ago heralding the advent of the “CSA challenge season.” Let me explain for those who haven’t been introduced to CSAs. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”, which is a subscription service that a farm will present a glorious array of their best veggies, once a week, to subscribers, during the gardening season. There are various farms offering CSA subscriptions in Tillamook County – check with Food Roots for a list of CSAs.

The reason we call it the “CSA challenge” is it is our sworn duty to try and eat all the veggies in that box before the next box arrives. This isn’t an easy venture for just the two of us and sometimes we have to enlist the help of our juicer to finish up the goods before the next wave comes through. It is a sure fire way to push your veggies.

We find ourselves getting very creative with what presents itself in the box. Lately, we have been getting lots of radishes. Okay, I have a confession to make, I don’t love radishes. I don’t hate them, I just find myself never getting creative with them. I grate them up in my salads, use them on tacos, or forget about them. (Fortunately they wait patiently for a long time in the fridge till I remember them.) I guess it is time to get to know this vegetable since they are not going away.

Radishes love to grow in our climate where it is cool all summer and they adore sandy, loamy soil. (Hence why they are a popular item in the CSA in our temperate zone) If you have ever grown a radish you will understand why they get their genus name, “Raphanus” which means “quickly appearing”. Radishes can germinate in 3-5 days and reach eat-ability in 2-3 weeks. I always have loved growing them since they are almost like instant gratification. Radishes are a great crop to grow with children because of this.

No one seems to know where the spunky radish pushed up from. There is some speculation that they came from Asia where some wild radishes are still found but who knows. It is known that they were an important food to the Egyptians who used them to feed and pay for their slaves. The Romans loved them so much they made gold ones and offered them up to Apollo. In fact, these little buggers really got around and it is easy to find their sprouts in every culture.

It is a wonderful that radishes have grown into most cultures as they are a good thing in the nutrition department. These fresh roots are high in Vitamin C, fiber, anti-oxidants, electrolytes, minerals and low in calories and carbs. They have an enormous amount of isothiocyanate, which is an anti-oxidant compound that is a warrior against cancer cells and inflammation.

A little known fact about radishes, (at least to me) are that when eaten raw, their peppery taste stimulates the production of saliva and rouses the appetite. Consequently they have been used throughout history as an appetizer to get the party started. In France, they are served first with butter and salt. You swipe the radish across the butter then dip in the salt. I was intrigued by this and had to try it and I must confess it is pretty darn good!

Another interestingly new way to eat radishes is to bake or sauté them. It tames the beast in the root and turns them into a sweet, tender nugget that you would never guess is a radish! In fact, they taste kinda like a roast potato without the carbs!

This recipe that I am sharing with you today involves sautéing the radishes and they are transformed into something special. Radishes will be particularly easy to get for this recipe as Farmers Markets starts up again (Hooray!) across the nation. There will be many a cool weather loving radish there to be had there in the Northwest. See you at the market!

Sautéed tarragon chicken with radishes
When I bought my organic chicken breasts and they were so big I bought two and cut them in half for this recipe.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (Please do organic)
Some salt and pepper (preferable fresh cracked pepper and a coarse salt, like Malden’s)
2 tablespoons of butter or coconut oil, divided
2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 fat shallots, minced
1/4 cup or so of white wine
1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon
2 fat bunches of fresh radishes (about 20) trimmed of the greens and halved length wise
Some fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish

Pat your chicken breasts dry with a paper towel then sprinkle with the salt and pepper and get out a nice big skillet to heat up 1 tablespoon of butter (or coconut oil) and one of the oil over medium high heat. Carefully lay the chicken in the skillet and cook until browned, then flip over and cook till that side is browned and the breast is cooked through, about 10 minutes per side, depending on how fat they are. (Lower the heat to Medium and put a lid on the pan if the pieces are particularly fat and need to cook longer.) Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm while you work some magic.

In the same skillet, add the shallots and cook for a minute or two till they are fragrant and translucent, then add the wine and broth to the skillet and bring to a boil. Whisk in the mustard and tarragon and keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken and coats the whisk and the amount has been reduced to half, about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and taste the sauce and see if it needs anything then gently roll the chicken around in the sauce and leave them there to wait for those little jewels of radishes.

In another heavy skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter (or coconut oil) and olive oil over medium high heat, and add the radishes. (make sure they are dry or they will splatter!) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to medium and cook them without stirring until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Begin to stir them now and continue to cook until they are crisp tender, 5-6 minutes longer.

Plate the chicken breast up with the sauce on them and then arrange the radishes around and over the chicken. (You could cut the chicken into slices to serve too) Garnish the whole affair with tarragon sprigs and serve with a smile.