A Surprising Pesto


Some friends have kindly given me access to their share of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) while they are on vacation, so I received a box overflowing with lettuce, radishes, and spinach this week. The lettuce will make wonderful salads, but the amount of radish greens overwhelmed the radishes themselves. This sent me on a quest for more info on the edibility of these greens and possible ways to prepare them. Net result? A surprisingly great pesto and a barely so-so soup. I’ll continue to tweak the latter but will include my take on the pesto here. Note that the pesto seems intensely garlicky; perhaps the spiciness of the greens boosts the garlic flavor. Keep that in mind as you choose the size of garlic clove to include.

If you have radishes fresh and ready from your garden, give this a try. All the info on radish greens emphasizes the very temporary nature of these tender leaves and the need to use them quickly from the garden. I tasted my supply first before even attempting any recipes. Though there are many references to the bitterness of these greens, I found none of that at all, just a light and pleasant spiciness–not surprising given the spicy flavor of the roots.

Radish Greens Pesto

2 oz (about 2 packed cups) well washed radish leaves, stems removed
1 oz grated Parmesan
1 oz whole almonds
1 large clove garlic, cut in two or three pieces
1 T olive oil, or more as needed
1/2 t salt
1/4 t Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, or any favorite pepper seaoning with a bit of a bite

Place all ingredients except salt and cajun seasoning in a processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle in a little more oil if the mixture is too dry. Taste and season accordingly.

This had a slightly crunchy texture because I just put whole almonds in with the remaining ingredients, so they were not completely blended. If you prefer a smoother texture, just blend these lightly first, or use slivered almonds instead of the whole ones.

If you look closely at the picture below, you will see that the leaves have a few of the holes left by flea beetles. I cut out any obviously brown spots but did not worry about including the still green leaves infested with these little bites.

Frugal: Since most of us routinely throw the greens away when we prepare radishes, that part of this recipe could be considered virtually free. This year, almonds are among the least expensive nuts, and the parmesan was plain old store brand grated.

Fast: Everything goes into the blender at once, and there are no other dishes to wash. If you like pesto on pasta, this would take less time to make than waiting for the water to boil.

Fit: Nutrition information on radish leaves was a little light, but several sites included this information:

Radishes, like other cruciferous vegetables, are high in vitamin C, which is the primary cancer-preventing antioxidant agent. One cup of the root supplies twenty-five percent of the daily recommended amount. Radish greens have six times the amount of vitamin C found in the root, as well as a significant amount of calcium, iron, and thiamine. These vegetables are also good sources of folic acid, potassium, and the trace mineral molybdenum. Molybdenum is thought to be involved in nervous system development, kidney function, and energy production at the cellular level.

Fun: This recipe was tested and approved by a not-real-fond-of-greens granddaughter. She tasted and then continued to “test” through several tablespoons of the pesto on plain old saltines, the only thing I had available for snacking when she stopped by.

Now for a little more work on developing a soup with radish greens that is worth the effort.

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