How to Use Radish Greens and Daikon Greens
Additional reporting and updates by Katherine Sacks.
Can you eat that? All too often, people cut up radishes for their salad or crudité plate, and compost (or simply toss out) the greens. But fresh, vibrant radish greens are a useful ingredient that can be served raw or cooked. Here’s how you do it:
Shopping for Radish and Daikon Greens
There are many varieties of radishes: colorful, small round ones; long and skinny breakfast radishes; long white daikon radishes; green-skinned, pink-fleshed watermelon radishes. Whether you buy them at the farmers’ market or a grocery store, many radishes are sold with their greens still attached.
The greens of all radishes are edible, although some varieties have a fuzzy texture some eaters might find unpleasant. Good news! Cooking removes that fuzzy mouthfeel. Daikon has fast growing greens and strong deep roots, and in the US the plant is most commonly grown as a cover crop. It is becoming increasingly common to find in supermarkets and farmers’ markets, however, thanks to an increased interest in southeast and Asian cuisines, which feature daikon prominently in many recipes.
The age of your radishes dictates how you’ll prepare the them. Radishes are a fast-growing crop, usually maturing in 21 to 30 days. If you grow your own radishes, harvest the greens when they are young and tender (just as the roots start forming). These greens will have the most delicate flavor and are better suited for eating raw (like in a salad). When shopping for radish greens, look for perky greens without any yellow spots. Choose smaller varieties, like breakfast radishes, for that mild flavor. Radishes that take a bit longer to grow — the long Daikon or large watermelon radish for example – will have older and more bitter greens. Cook these greens to soften their flavor.
Storing Radish and Daikon Greens
Radish greens don’t keep for long. To extend their life, remove them from the root (radish) after bringing them home. Wash, dry thoroughly, refrigerate and use within 2 to 3 days. Don’t get to them in time? Slightly wilted radish greens can be revived in ice water; wilted radish greens are great for pesto; and extremely wilted radish greens are super for smoothies.
Uses for Radish and Daikon Greens
Depending on the variety, radish greens can be peppery, like arugula, or milder, like spinach. They can be used similarly to those greens and in many of the same ways you’d use beet and turnip greens or carrot tops.
Used raw, radish greens make a peppy pesto, a flavorful swap for lettuce in sandwiches, and a great addition to the salad bowl.
Radish greens also 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. And pickled radish leaves are not only delicious, they are a great way to preserve the leaves.
But some of the more interesting uses for radish greens come from Asian cuisines, which feature radish and daikon greens in a number of popular dishes.
Japanese Radish Leaf Recipes
According to a 2015 survey, daikon is the most popular vegetable in Japan. It’s no surprise, then, that the country’s cuisine puts them to good use. The radish is commonly served as a grated condiment, and used in soups, stews and pickles. The greens can also be pickled, as well as stir-fried, mixed into rice or turned into a condiment.
Korean Radish Leaf Recipes
There are many recipes for radish-based kimchi, the highly-flavored, fermented dish that is a Korean national tradition. 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 these days, the dried leaves are still used to flavor all manner of dishes, including rice, soup and porridge.
Indian Radish Leaf Recipes
Radish greens are used in many Indian dishes as spinach would be: stewed into a simmering pot of curry. You can also build a dish around them, such as this Indian stir-fry, poriyal, or this braised radish leaves dish.
Recipe: Sautéed Radishes from Root to Leaf
Sherri Brooks Vinton
In this dish, radishes are sautéed until tender and coated with nutty browned butter. Then the greens are added to the pan to bring a fresh radish zing to the dish. Serve this as a side dish or toss with pasta, grated nutmeg and a sprinkle of cheese for a quick, delicious dinner.
1 pound radishes with bright green leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Remove greens. Wash and dry thoroughly. Quarter radishes.
- Heat oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook radishes, tossing occasionally, until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add butter and cook, using a spoon to baste radishes with butter, until butter begins to brown and smell nutty, about 1 minute.
- Add greens and cook until wilted, about 1 minute more.
- Remove from heat, add lemon juice, if using. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
A version of this piece was originally published in December 2018.
Top photo by @nina_p_v /Twenty20.