We hope you’re hungry!

This summer, we’re highlighting a must-eat-right-now ingredient every week. This week? Radishes, a definitive sign of spring. Visit 5280.com/freshpicks2015 every week for tips on which ingredient you should be growing, buying, cooking, and tasting—all season long.

Radishes | Family: Brassicaceae

From the Farmer: “Radishes are one of the first root crops that are ready,” says Mark Guttridge, of Ollin Farms in Longmont. While other crops might be delayed due to our wet, cold spring, this veggie is flourishing. “This kind of year, when we have a bunch of rain, is really good for radishes,” he says. Ollin Farms grows about seven different varieties, including the Ostergruss, which is one of Guttridge’s favorites. “I call it a ‘beer radish’ because it is nice to munch on when you drink a beer.”

From the Chef: “Radishes really define ‘in the moment’ for me,” Blackbelly Market chef-owner Hosea Rosenberg says. “They are beautiful, crunchy, spicy, and colorful. Plus, they are good raw, marinated, pickled, braised, and roasted—pretty close to a perfect ingredient when in season.” Rosenberg, who won Bravo’s Top Chef Season Five, uses French breakfast radishes, Easter egg radishes, and watermelon radishes at his Boulder restaurant. Most, if not all, of the root vegetables come from Two Hounds Farm, which is run by Derek Spires, one of Rosenberg’s cooks.

Good for You: Radishes are high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, and anthocyanins (the compound that turns them red), all of which have protective qualities. In addition to also being detoxifying and a natural diuretic, the vegetable is cooling to the digestive system—there’s a reason you often see them paired with spicy foods such as posole or tacos.

At the Market: “When it gets really hot, radishes get too spicy and dried out,” Guttridge says. “This year we have amazing juicy radishes.” Look for bulbs that are unblemished and bright in color with fresh-looking leaves. Soft spots or unhealthy looking tops indicate the root is past its prime. Radishes keep for about a week if refrigerated properly.

Around Town: Radishes are all over menus right now. At Blackbelly, one of the best ways to enjoy them is the very simple radish (pictured). Rosenberg takes the freshest of the crop and plates them to look like they’re growing right out of the plate. Pull each radish through the swath of herbed butter and rejoice in the taste of spring. (Table 6 offers a similar dish, but replaces the butter with thick yogurt-butter, fresh mint, and jalapeño. At Potager, whole radishes are roasted in salt and them presented with warm butter. See a theme here?)

In Your Kitchen: For just about ever, radishes have been an also-ran in the home kitchen. Sure, you might add a few slices to a salad or as a garnish to fish tacos, but what to do with the rest of the bunch? Next time, make the shaved celery, fennel, and radish salad with buttered Valdéon toasts out of Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune cookbook. First of all, the book is spectacular, second, I made the starter for a dinner party in April and I’ve been craving it ever since. (Bonus: Hamilton is cooking at Frasca Food and Wine on June 22, call to reserve your seat.) Her dish completely updates the staid tea sandwich paradigm—and because of the thick layer of butter and blue cheese, it could stand in as a light brunch or dinner entrée. If you have any radishes leftover, pickle them or turn the root and its edible greens into soup.

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Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.