Beyond Garnish

Radishes

by Emily Kennedy

Radishes

Gabriela Herman

“What do I know of man’s destiny?” Samuel Beckett wrote. “I could tell you more about radishes.”
I’m going to be honest—for years, I could probably tell you a lot more about a man’s destiny. My first dozen interactions with the root were in the form of flower-shaped garnishes that loitered around hotel buffets or were found awkwardly accompanying Chinese takeout. I regarded them with the same skepticism I typically reserved for those saccharine cake toppers shaped like palm trees or Disney characters. Were they food, or foam? Was there any protocol for determining what to do with them? I was taught to absolutely never eat garnish (which must account for my historic ambivalence towards parsley), and so those pretty buds were permanently relegated to the edge of my plate.
But boy, are they pretty. The watermelon radish, featured here, has an other-worldly hue, a tiny replica of its warm-season namesake. A little milder and sweeter than other varieties, this heirloom variety comes into season in late fall and spring.
And, despite society’s suggestions otherwise, all radishes are a formidable addition to any meal: crisp and zesty raw, they also bake and fry well. Radishes don’t necessarily pack a nutritional punch (they’re mostly water and carbohydrates), but a few cups will get you enough Vitamin C to replace your morning glass of OJ.
Plus, they’re an amateur gardener’s dream: among the easiest vegetables to grow, some varieties mature in as few as three weeks. As Jefferson Munroe at the GOOD Farm put it, they’re an “instant gratification veggie—quick to germinate, quick to grow, and edible once you wipe the dirt off of them.” See Mom? More than garnish.