Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quick Hits: Pickled Radishes

When I teach square roots and other math involving radicals, I take great pleasure in putting little radishes on all of my handouts. It's a place where my odd sense of humor can bring together my nerdy loves of language, math and food. The point of connection is this: both radish and radical derive from the same Latin word, radix, meaning "root."

For all of my love of the linguistic spin-out of radishes, though, I'm a little lukewarm on eating them, at least the red European varieties. It's a little puzzling to me, because all of the words I put together to describe the flavor of such radishes are usually words common to foods I really like: spicy, peppery, mustardy, crisp. I like daikon radish fairly well, but it's almost more of a texture than a taste. What would the Fraggles think?

Earlier in the summer, I ended up with several bunches of radishes from my farm share and while dragging my feet and feeling bad about not using them, decided to look up pickled radish recipes. After reading a number of recipes, I put together a radish refrigerator pickle and hoped for the best. After letting them sit for a few days, I pulled them out. The bright color of the radish skin had leached out into the brine, giving it the vivid red tone of generic fruit punch. I tasted them and was initially disappointed: the radishy taste was still there, thinly veiled with salty vinegar. I put them back in the fridge, hoping, as with the fresh radishes, that they would magically transform into something I liked.

About a week later I was making some tuna salad and, on a whim, pulled out the radish pickles again, chopped some up, and added them to the salad, where they ended up being the star. Suddenly, I was looking for things to include them in. That was really the key: they go in things, not on their own. Since then, they have improved burritos, falafel, and a variety of cold salads. I'm almost out, and I may even go out and buy more radishes to make more pickles.

    Refrigerator Radish Pickles

    raw, vegan, gluten/grain-free
  • 1½-2 c. sliced red radishes (8-12 radishes, depending on size)
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced or smashed
  • 1 c. cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. sugar
Put the vinegar, salt and sugar in a pint jar, put the lid on and shake vigorously until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add sliced radishes, garlic and peppercorns. Replace the lid and put the jar in the fridge. Allow pickles to sit for at least 5 days before using.

Serve in a sandwich, falafel, or burrito or add to tuna salad.


  1. This sounds great. Lately I've been doing something similar with red onions, which make a very tasty, similarly red, pickle.

  2. Good call on the pickled onions. Maybe that's the solution to running out of radishes - I can add onion slices to the brine instead. Thanks for the suggestion, Ben!



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