radish leaf pesto - peppery deliciousness too good to be wasted

Thanks to the leaf-to-root movement, people have become more aware of ways to use parts of the plant that many would consider inedible. I often wondered how some produce seems to come with a big part of the plant being thrown away. I even regarded many of the leaves, skins or stems of some produce as detrimental for one’s health. As I learned most of it was due to false assumptions. Radish leaves is one example. I grew radishes when I was a kid on a small vegetable patch in my parents garden. It was only as an adult that I learned that radish leaves are just as good as rocket (aragula). They have a peppery flavour that is very similar.


I wonder why they don’t get featured more prominently in recipe magazines and cookbooks. Perhaps people consider using parts of a plant that is not so often used in cooking as a sign of constraint and deprivation. Who is so hard up to eat something that most people throw away in an instant?!

Oftentimes you find the leaves to be rather unappealing when you buy radishes, they can be limp and wilted and many shops even rip them off, because it is unfavourable for the overall look of the fruit and vegetable section. Wilted leaves don’t look great in salads, but they are still good enough for a soup or pesto.

The other day I found some wonderful looking radishes with beautiful, vibrant green leaves. The radishes were used for a salad and the leaves looked too good to end up in the compost bin. I also had some roasted hazelnuts in my cupboard and a piece of pecorino or parmesan is a staple in my home. I went online and found a recipe for hazelnut and radish leaf pesto (https://food52.com/recipes/6659-radish-leaf-hazelnut-pesto). I adapted it a little bit to keep it simple and because I didn’t have grapeseed oil and lemon at home. I was very pleased with the result and happy that I prepared a dinner for weekday.

  • leaves of one bunch of radishes, washed and picked (about a handful)

  • 20g skinned hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

  • 30g freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil

  • 1 - 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or mild olive oil

  • sea salt and pepper

Roughly chop the radish leaves. Put the leaves into a food processor with the grated cheese, garlic and the oils. Alternatively put everything in a bowl and use a handheld blender. Pulse to make a fine purée. Add a little bit more oil if the mixture is too dry. Season with salt and pepper. Store in the fridge until ready to use. This will keep for at least a week. I love to use this as a pesto for pasta or as a spread or dip.