How to Use Radish Greens and Daikon Greens
Can you eat that? If you are talking about radish greens the answer is yes, you can! All too often, people eat the radish root and compost the greens. Fresh, vibrant radish and daikon — a variety of radish — greens are a useful ingredient that can be served raw or cooked.
Shopping for Radish Greens
The age of your radishes dictates how you prepare your radish greens. Just as the root gets tough and woody as it matures, the greens get bitter and fibrous over time as well. So, young plants will have greens that are better suited for eating raw while the greens from more mature plants will soften when cooked.
Variety matters as well. The greens of all radishes are edible, but each have their unique characteristics. Some radish greens can be a bit prickly. Such texture doesn’t make them inedible, but some eaters don’t care for it. The good news is that cooking removes that fuzzy mouthfeel. Other varieties of radish, such as breakfast radishes, are smooth-leaved without any of the velveteen texture. Daikon greens are plentiful and are valued as a vegetable in their own right — some varieties are even grown for their greens rather than their root.
Uses for Radish Greens
Radish greens are peppery, like arugula, and deliver a nice amount of the heat we associate with radishes. They are great with butter, mayonnaise, oil or bacon. The spiciness of the green cuts the tongue-coating richness of the fat.
Radish greens can be used in many of the same ways that you would use the greens of other root vegetables such as beet and turnip greens or carrot tops. They can be used to make a peppy pesto or make a quick and easy side dish when sautéed with garlic and oil. Radish leaf soup is a cleansing dish served similarly to nettle soup in the spring as a healthy tonic to start the season. You can pickle radish leaves, too.
But some of the more interesting uses for radish greens come from Asian cuisines where the greens of red radishes and daikon alike play starring roles in a number of popular dishes.
Japanese Radish Leaf Recipes
Daikon, the long, white carrot-looking radishes, are the most popular vegetable in Japan. It’s no surprise, then, that the country’s cuisine puts them to good use. Daikon radish is featured in soups and stews where it’s sharp flavor brings a counterpoint to the oily fish that are often included in such recipes. Tsukemono, pickled vegetables, can be made with a variety of roots and greens, including radish leaves.
Korean Radish Leaf Recipes
There are many recipes for radish-based kimchi, the highly-flavored ferment that is a national tradition. Some use the roots diced or even whole if they are small. The leaves are often incorporated and are sometimes the center of the pickle. Siraegi, dried radish leaves, were traditionally hung to cure in the fall so they could be enjoyed in the colder months when fields were fallow. Although eaters are less dependent on the traditional harvest cycle, the dried leaves are still used to flavor all manner of dishes, including rice, soup and porridge.
Indian Radish Leaf Recipes
The spiciness of radish leaves adds another dimension to India’s often spicy foods. Just as you can combine different peppers in a pot of chili, adding radish greens to a simmering pot of curry will add another layer of heat and flavor. Or you can build a dish around them, such as this Indian stir-fry, poriyal.
Recipe: Sautéed Radishes from Root to Leaf
In this dish, radishes are sautéed until they are tender and coated with nutty, browned butter. Then the greens are added to the pan to bring the fiery fresh radish zing to the dish. You can serve this as a side dish or toss the sauté with some pasta, a few gratings of nutmeg and a sprinkle of cheese for a full meal.
1 bunch radishes, about a pound, greens and roots separated and roots quartered
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Juice of half of a lemon, optional
- In a medium sauté pan, sauté radish quarters, seasoned with salt and pepper, in butter over medium heat until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the greens and sauté until wilted, about 1-2 minutes.
- Squeeze lemon over the mixture, if you like, and serve.