With more markets selling root vegetables like radishes with their leafy tops attached, it's useful to know a trick or two for using this edible foliage. Similarly, the quick-growing vegetable doubly rewards gardeners who know better than to overlook the greens. Both large and small radish varieties produce leaves that, much like spinach, can be used fresh or cooked.
Working with Greens
If you grow your own radishes, feel free to snip a few leaves here and there, while the roots are still growing. But the real bounty comes when the roots are mature. Once radishes are harvested -- either by you, or for the market where you buy them -- all of the leafy tops can be used at one time. When you store radishes, slice the greens away from the radishes, then wash the greens and place them, in plastic bags, in the refrigerator for a day or two. The radishes themselves keep best if left unwashed until use.
Fresh radish greens can go most places that traditional salad greens do. Replace some of the lettuce in green salads with radish tops that have been thoroughly rinsed and dried. It's generally better to combine the peppery tops with milder greens, because too many radish greens can overwhelm a salad -- especially if you're also including sliced radishes. Alternatively, add chopped, fresh radish greens to wrap or pita sandwiches for extra crunch and flavor.
When you have an abundance of radish greens, turn them into soup for a crowd, or for freezing. If pureed with milder ingredients, radish greens make an intriguing twist on cream of spinach soup. Use roughly 2 parts peeled potato chunks to 1 part radish greens for this soup, as well as an onion or two. After sauteing the radish greens and other vegetables in butter, simmer them in water until they are tender. An immersion blender comes in handy to liquefy these ingredients, after adding a few splashes of milk or cream. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the mixture in your food processor or blender, in batches.
For pesto, food writer Lauren Rothman starts by briefly boiling both radish and beet greens, then plunging them in ice water. Because radish greens have such an intense flavor, it's best to use about three times the amount of beet greens to radish greens. After all of the greens are blanched, they can be pureed with such traditional pesto ingredients as walnuts or pine nuts, along with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
Like spinach, chopped radish greens can be sauteed in oil over medium heat, for a simple side dish. Garlic or bacon pieces add extra flavor. Or use radish greens as just one ingredient in a saute or stir-fry with other vegetables, and perhaps sliced chicken or seafood chunks. In addition, the tops make interesting "chips" when roasted whole. Chopped into strips, the roasted pieces garnish baked or roasted root vegetable dishes.