In season now: French breakfast radishes

by Terry B on June 10, 2009


It’s funny how you can go your whole life without ever seeing something and then once you see it, it’s everywhere. Take French breakfast radishes [or as the French call them, breakfast radishes—les radis petit déjeuner]. describes French breakfast radishes as having “a crisp texture and a mild to delicately sweet flavor.” It goes on to say that “This radish is considered to be a spring radish, but may be available throughout the year.” That said, French breakfast radishes grown later in the year, when it has been hot their entire growing season of three to four weeks, tend to be strong in flavor and can turn pithy.

I first made the acquaintance of these crunchy, earthy, slightly spicy little delights several weeks ago at mado, one of our favorite Chicago restaurants. There they were served in classic French style—uncooked, trimmed top and bottom and halved lengthwise with a little salt and a generous dollop of butter alongside.

Next thing I knew, Laura over at What I Like was singing their praises and calling this simple preparation a “wonderful French children’s snack.” And New York magazine’s Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite were sharing how Allen & Delancey chef Kyle Bailey poaches them in butter, just in case you tire of the classic treatment.

So by the time we started seeing them at farmers markets, we were eager to snatch some up and try them at home. The first batch we got came from a farmer at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. Having had them raw, I asked how he ate them. Sautéed in butter was the answer. His radishes were full grown, three or so inches, and a little bolder and spicier in flavor than the smaller, more delicate ones we’d had at mado—but still milder than the ubiquitous red supermarket radishes.

Next we bought a batch, the ones shown above, at our neighborhood Logan Square Farmers Market. They’re smaller, harvested younger as the mado ones had been. When I asked the farmer there how she liked to eat them, she mimed lifting one to her mouth and biting into it. She said she has to be careful when she’s harvesting them or else she’ll spot minor imperfections in them making them not marketworthy and eat her entire crop on the spot.

I understand. I keep meaning to try sautéing some or at least serving them up with butter and salt. I hear they’re also delicious in salads. But so far, we’ve only managed to barely rinse them off before gobbling them up. However you choose to eat them, get your hands on some now, while they’re at their best.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly June 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm

These are beautiful! I’ve seen them at our markets around Philly and have always shied away from buying them for fear they would just fade away in my fridge and end up in the compost bin. But poached in butter? Sounds rather amazing! Thanks for the tip!

Laura June 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I have got to try the poaching method now! Later in the summer we sometimes get japanese turnips at the farmers markets (harukei I think?) that are similar in taste and texture to the radishes and I find them to be totally delicious sauteed in butter with a pinch of salt. Oh, and I added them to your Chinese chicken salad, along with some raw asparagus…delicious! That salad is so genius…

Doc Rock June 10, 2009 at 10:22 pm

First discovered these years ago in a Thompson and Morgan seed catalog. Grew some and grew to love them!

Terry B June 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Holly—Even try them raw with a little butter and salt. I think you’ll like them.

Laura—Those sound like some great additions to Marion’s chicken salad!

Doc Rock—And what’s cool about growing your own is that they grow so quickly, just three or four weeks.

Julie June 14, 2009 at 7:05 pm

you’ve just reminded me that i have these farmer’s market procured radishes in my crisper and i was going to cook them with dill! must do that.

Terry B June 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Julie—And you’ve just reminded me that I haven’t visited your blog recently enough. Congratulations on finishing library school!

Crystal June 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I know these type of radishes and usually they are very tasty.
I’ve never tried them poached in butter. Sounds very interesting :) Thanks for sharing!

Dani H May 18, 2014 at 4:50 am

I was raised eating young radishes and spring onions with breakfast whenever they were available (in the days before you could get everything year-round.) Always with salt, though these days I get fancy and use coarse sea salt. {smile}

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