Radishes come in tidy little bouquets held together by rubber bands in almost fake-looking hues of red and purple with fuzzy green leaves, each radish a perfect doll-size root vegetable. I like seeing loads of them in the grocery store or piled high at the farmer's market, they always make me feel cheery.
There is something very satisfying when I bite into a radish: a bit of a crunch, a little sharp bite in the back of my throat perking up my mouth. It seems like the whole world eats radishes. The French dip them in slightly softened, creamy sweet butter and wash them down with a glass of crisp white wine. In Mexican cuisine, radishes make a peppery and crunchy topping to tacos and posole. The Germans munch them when drinking beer, sprinkling some salt on top, preferably with buttered dark bread scattered with chives, while the Japanese grate their radishes which are oftentimes part of a bento box.
Radishes can be dolled up and used as a very cute food décor, and the other day, I found a dish soap with radish scent ;)
Besides, they can be transformed into a fine little spring soup. I even use the leaves which give the potage a wonderfully aromatic tang. Once cooked, the radishes become less sharp, there is just a hint of it left, and the leaves give the soup a pale green shade, like spring itself. I add a little lemon juice for brightness and top it with a drizzle of pleasingly grassy olive oil.
Heirloom radishes come in all different shapes, sizes and names, but the best I saved for last: Rat's Tail.
Spring Radish Soup
Adapted from the German Magazine Brigitte
Serves 2 – 4
A handful or about 10 green radish leaves, discard any yellow ones
1 shallot, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 Tb olive oil
1 cup milk, whole or 2 %
1 cup vegetable broth
1-2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté radishes, shallot and potato in olive oil for about 5 minutes or until fragrant. Add milk and vegetable broth, cover, and simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes. Add radish leaves and puree until pale green and frothy. Add more broth if soup seems too thick. Season with lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with thin radish slices and a few drops of olive oil.