With their sharp, peppery flavour and crunchy texture, radishes are the perfect way to give your salads a bit of a kick. They are popular in Asian cookery, with the daikon radish in particular being a favoured ingredient in Korean kimchi. Radishes come in many shapes and sizes, so if you want to know how to tell a watermelon radish from a Malaga radish, take a look at our guide to different types of radish.
Can you eat radish greens?
When you buy radishes from the store, you’ll usually find that they come with their leaves attached. Often these leafy greens end up in the trash or on the compost heap, which is a shame, because they’re actually edible, and pretty tasty too. Their flavour is similar to other leafy greens, with some varieties having a more peppery flavour, like arugula, and others having a milder flavour that’s more similar to spinach.
Some people find the slightly hairy texture of radish greens distasteful, but cooking them removes the fuzziness, and you can buy ‘hairless’ varieties such as White Icicle, Shunkyo Semi-Long, Perfecto, and Red Head, which are grown for their roots (what we would normally refer to as a radish) and their greens. Radish greens are commonly used in Asian cuisine, and will often be included in kimchi along with the root. There are even some Asian varieties of radish that are grown just for their tasty greens.
Radish leaves can be used in much the same way as other greens, in salads and sandwiches, or sautéed, like spinach. They can be made into a nutritious, peppery soup, a pickle, or a pungent pesto. Many Asian dishes taste great with radish greens, and you can try adding them to your kimchi, or a stir-fry, or using them to make Furikake, a Japanese rice condiment made with chopped greens and sesame seeds.
If you do decide to try radish greens, go for the leaves of smaller varieties. Radish greens become bitterer as they age, and because the smaller ones take less time to grow, they should have younger, tastier leaves. If you grow your own, harvest the greens when they are still young and tender, and if you’re buying from the store, opt for fresh, healthy-looking greens without any yellow spots.
Radish greens don’t stay fresh for long, and they will pull moisture from the root if you leave them attached. If you don’t want shrivelled radish roots, you should clip the greens from the roots as soon as possible. Wash the leaves, and if you’re not using them right away, store them in your crisper drawer and eat them within the next day or two.
Nutritional values, benefits and calories
Like most leafy greens, radish greens are highly nutritious. They are low in calories, at around 35 to 40 calories per cup (144g) and high in vitamins, minerals and other beneficial substances.
Radish greens contain several antioxidants, which are important for protecting your cells from damage by substances called free radicals. Free-radical damage can contribute to several chronic diseases, including cancer, so a diet high in antioxidants is important.
They are also high in vitamins A and C, both of which are vital for a healthy immune system, and healthy, clear skin. Vitamin A also helps protect your eyesight.
Radish greens provide a good source of iron and folic acid, both of which are essential for the production and maintenance of healthy red blood cells. It also provides vitamin B6, which helps with both the production of red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Other nutrients found in radish greens include calcium, for healthy teeth and bones, and fibre, for a healthy digestive system.
Recipes with radish greens
If you’d like to try radish greens for yourself, these delicious and nutritious recipes are sure to have you wondering why you hadn’t tried them before.
Sautéed radish greens: this simple, elegant side dish from Fork in the Road uses 5 ingredients including seasoning, and takes just 20 minutes to prepare and cook. Radish greens behave in much the same way as spinach, wilting down to a fraction of their original size and soaking up the delicious garlicky flavour of the oil, with a touch of red pepper to accentuate their natural heat.
Radish greens pesto: garlic and radish greens are an irresistible combination, and they’re put to good use again in this pungent pesto by From a Chef’s Kitchen. The recipe switches the usual basil with radish greens for a peppery twist on everyone’s favourite Italian sauce.
Spicy stir-fried radish greens: this sizzling side from Kalyn’s Kitchen is another simple, 20-minute dish, this time with even more of a kick. This Asian-inspired dish complements the pepperiness of the radish greens with a spicy sauce made with sriracha sauce, soy sauce and rice vinegar.
Once you’ve tried these recipes, we’re pretty sure you’ll be buying more radishes, which means you’ll need more ways to use those tasty, peppery roots. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our guide to red radishes for cooking tips, fascinating facts and more delicious recipes.