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Yes, you can eat radish tops! |

Yes, you can eat radish tops!

Radish bunches at farmers market
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)


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Don’t waste the greens and throw them in the compost. They’re fantastic sauteed with onion and a touch of garlic, or with sausage, or bacon. They’re great steamed or stirred into skillets, soups, stews. Fold them into eggs for omelets, quiches, frittatas. You can use them in the same manner as their cousins, turnip greens; or cook like you would spinach.

In the South, greens are simmered for an hour or so with ham hocks in a big pot, creating a dense, dark-green, nutritious pot-likker that is meltingly tender and silky in texture. This is sopped up with cornbread or a crusty baguette.

Radishes grow wild in Asia and have been cultivated in China for thousands of years. They were common in ancient Egypt. The Greeks made small gold replicas of the radish for use in the worship of their god, Apollo. British colonists brought the radish to Massachusetts in 1629.

Like other greens, radish tops are an excellent source of fiber and the antioxidant vitamins, A, C, and E, as well as folic acid and B6. These vitamins work together to limit the clumping of blood platelets, maintain low levels of homocysteine, and keep LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in check. Thus, they are important in the fight against atherosclerosis.

According to a study by CHAP, the Chicago Health and Aging Project, published in the journal Neurology (.Morris MC, Evans DA, et al.), eating just three servings daily of green leafy, yellow and cruciferous vegetables was shown to slow mental decline associated with aging by 40 percent. “This decrease is equivalent to about five years of younger age,” said lead author Martha Clare Morris, ScD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

While tougher than tender greens like spinach and chard, the green leaves of radishes or turnips are smaller and sweeter than those of collards and kale. They have a mild bite a little like the radish beneath them, and a fuzzy, prickly texture that disappears when they’re cooked.

Radish greens usually come attached to bright red radishes. Look for crisp, bright green, unblemished leaves that are not yellow or wilted. Wash as you would any greens, in ample water to remove clinging sand and dirt. Chop larger leaves coarsely for easier eating.

Both roots and greens of the radish are best eaten when young and tender. The greens don’t stay fresh for long; use them within a day or two, and save the radishes for later. Harvest when young; sweet, tender, young greens become bitter and grow tougher as the plant matures and the roots develop. The strong taste of the large, mature leaves can be reduced by boiling them and draining the water. Greens cooked in this way can be substituted for spinach in most recipes.

If you don’t object to the fuzzy texture, you can add the greens to salads or use them in place of lettuce in sandwiches with turkey or ham and mayo. Like the bulbs, they have a sharp, peppery flavor.

Cooked greens are also great in casseroles and folded into rice or pasta dishes like vegetable lasagna. Try them braised with bacon, butter or olive oil, and flavored with onion, garlic and chili pepper. Cooked this way, they make a wonderful complement to meat or fish. Or place braised greens on garlic bread, top with tomato and cheese, and grill for an open-faced sandwich.

Radish Greens and Sausage Skillet

Ingredients:

1/3 pound breakfast sausage

1 onion

1 clove garlic

4 ounces sliced mushrooms (optional)

1/2 pound to 1 pound fresh greens

1 to 2 cups diced tomatoes

1/4 cup sharp shredded cheese

Directions:

In skillet, cook sausage to brown. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms to drippings, and cook 5 minutes. Add the greens, cover, and cook about 15 minutes, until tender. Stir in tomatoes and beaten egg; cook, stirring, until egg settles. Serve over pasta, rice or potatoes. Serves two.

Braised Greens Tomato Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 onion

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic

1 chili pepper, optional

1 or 2 bunches radish greens (reserve radishes for another use)

A little balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice (1 teaspoon ) optional

2 slices whole grain bread

1 tomato, sliced

2 Tablespoons shredded cheese of your choice (Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan)

Directions:

Heat oil in skillet. Peel and chop the onion, sprinkle with salt, cover and cook on medium-low 5 minutes or longer. Add minced garlic and chili pepper, if using, and cook a couple minutes longer.

While onions are cooking, remove greens from bulbs; wash greens well; discard any tough stringy stems; chop coarsely. Add greens to skillet; stir and cook, covered, until wilted and tender, three to seven minutes. If water clinging to greens is not enough to cook them and they start sticking to the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water, broth, or wine. Toast the bread. Top with greens mixture. Spritz with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, if desired. Slice tomato on top of greens, sprinkle with cheese, and place in toaster oven until cheese melts.

Serves two.

Option: For a green BLT, add cooked bacon. Or add grilled chicken strips for a heartier sandwich. Also, greens braised this way are a good accompaniment to fish, pork or chicken.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com or on Facebook as author

Yvona Fast.

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