In North America, we mostly use radishes as an ingredient in salads or as part of a crudite platter. For the most part, it's the common, pinkish-red radish known as the cherry belle that we're most familiar with. This round, mildly peppery radish is a mainstay of farmers' markets and supermarket produce sections, but it's just one of more than 100 radish varieties that range in color and size from white to purple, from bite-sized to grapefruit-sized and beyond. One variety you may not be as familiar with is the so-called French breakfast radish.
What Are French Breakfast Radishes?
"French breakfast" is the name of an heirloom cultivar of radishes that was introduced in 1879 and was a popular radish in Paris produce markets. Their shape is rather more elongated than the salad radishes you're probably used to, but their reddish-pink color will be familiar. Where the North American salad radish is peppery and spicy, the French breakfast radish is much milder with a sweeter flavor.
How to Use French Breakfast Radishes
To get the obvious question out of the way right away, no, the French do not eat radishes for breakfast. They do eat them as a snack, sometimes dipped in salt, sometimes lightly buttered and then dipped in salt, and sometimes sliced and served on a toasted, buttered baguette along with a sprinkling of salt. The Germans do something similar, although they're known to wash this snack down with a cold beer.
To serve your French breakfast radishes in the traditional Parisian manner, simply trim off the leafy tops, leaving a bit of stem still attached, wash and dry the radishes thoroughly, and then place them in a bowl. Next, toast some really good, crusty bread, ideally a light, crackly baguette. Finally, spoon some sweet butter into a small dish and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Now, grab a radish, holding by the stem, and bite it. And while you're chewing, butter some bread, and then take a bite of that. Voilà! You've just had radis beurre et pain grillé, also known as radishes with buttered toast.
Radishes can also be cooked for a milder dish. Roast them whole, slice and sauté them as a side dish or as part of a stir-fry or vegetable medley, or even cook them into a puréed vegetable soup.
What Do They Taste Like?
French breakfast radishes are milder and sweeter than common red radishes while still retaining a hint of that peppery, mustardy piquancy that we associate with radishes. Spring and fall radishes will be milder than ones grown in summer—basically, the warmer the soil, the spicier the radish.
Note that just like with ordinary red radishes, cooking brings out the sweetness in French breakfast radishes. Roasting and sautéeing are common methods of preparing them.
French Breakfast Radish Recipes
Radishes are crispy and flavorful eaten out-of-hand, used in salads or as a vegetable dipper with guacamole, or pickled. They can also be cooked for a less spicy and sweeter flavor.
Where to Buy French Breakfast Radishes
French breakfast radishes are technically spring radishes but they can be grown all year round. Springtime, though, is when they're more abundant and at their sweetest and when you're most likely to be able to find them. Some supermarket produce departments will sell them by the bunch or pound, especially the higher-end outlets that focus on fresh produce. Otherwise, your best bet is to wait for them to show up at your local farmers' market.
Nutrition and Benefits
Nutritionally speaking, radishes are mostly water. A 100-gram serving of radish (a little less than a cup of sliced radish) consists of 95 grams of water. It also offers 16 calories, .68 grams of protein and .1 grams of fat, along with 3.4 grams of carbs and 1.6 grams of dietary fiber. While it doesn't offer much else in the way of nutrients, a 100-gram serving does contain 14.8 mg of vitamin C, which is the equivalent of about 18 percent of the recommended daily value .
The most practical way to store fresh radishes is to trim off the roots and leaves, wrap the unwashed radishes in a damp paper towel and seal them up in a plastic zipper bag and store it in the fridge. They'll last for a week or two this way. Washing them first can cause them to go soft in the fridge, so just wash them right before you use them.
Another method is to trim off the roots and the leaves and store them in a bowl of water in the fridge. Storing the radishes in water will keep them crisp, but keeping a bowl of water and radishes in your fridge may not be the most practical method. To store radishes for a longer period, try pickling them.