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].
Recipetips.com 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.