FAIL: The Wild Radish Rapini Challenge

by | Mar 11, 2009

Want to get people to eat more vegetables? One way NOT to accomplish it is to have them eat something that doesn’t taste good.

I tried a recipe for radish rapini (radish greens) this weekend that really let me down. The rapini itself was delicious, but overall the dish was a huge disappointment.

All is not lost, however. I’d be willing to bet just a minor tweak could transform this dish from cloying to classic!

The Challenge

You might remember that Saturday at the farmers market I was challenged by Knoll Farms to buy and prepare some of their wild radish rapini. I didn’t really accept the challenge, which would have involved giving them my name in the event that I seriously wanted my money back after trying it (I still don’t). But I did buy their greens and borrow their recipe.

Admittedly it was a mistake on my part to tell you guys I would try this recipe before really reading it (I have a tendency to skip this critical reading step before deciding to cook something–probably not the best habit). But once I made the commitment I didn’t want to mess with the recipe too much.

In retrospect I wish I had gone with my gut on this one and altered it anyway.

My Main Complaint?

Their recipe called for equal parts coconut oil, raw honey and tahini. Tahini I can understand. It has a wonderful rich, smokey flavor that I use on greens regularly. I have no experience with coconut oil, but have heard good things and was interested in trying it.

Honey is a different story.

Personally I would never put honey on greens. Raw or “healthy” or whatever, sugar is sugar. It is hard enough to avoid sweets in this food culture without adding sugar to vegetables.

My brain warned me of all these things. But for you, dear readers, I followed the recipe anyway.


From a culinary perspective, the honey was just as unsavory (um, pun intended). I freely acknowledge that there are a few dishes where a touch of honey/sweetness can add a nice element and heighten the dish. I was willing to give the Knoll folks the benefit of the doubt for 2 reasons:

  1. I have never had “raw” honey and thought maybe it would taste different than the honey I was used to. It didn’t.
  2. I thought there was a chance the sweetness would balance the smokey flavor of the tahini (I was dreaming of Hawaiian BBQ). Maybe a different ratio of honey and tahini works, but it certainly doesn’t at 1:1.

So from my perspective the dish was too sweet. Sickly sweet. The honey completely overpowered the brightness of the greens (which were wonderful!). If I had to change only one thing in this dish, I would substitute Meyer lemon juice for the honey.

I bet that would be good! It could also use some garlic.

The Recipe

When I cooked the greens I followed their recipe exactly. I blanched them for ~4 minutes until they were bright green, squeezed out the water and cut them up. The taste test I did at this point was really encouraging.

I premixed the wet ingredients. Both the coconut oil and the honey were solid at room temperature so I microwaved them for 15 seconds.

When I tasted the dressing at this point I knew it would be too sweet, so I only used about half of it. I had already halved the dressing ingredients because I had fewer greens than the recipe called for, so there is no chance that I had simply “over-dressed” the greens. The dressing was bad. Really bad.


To make a complete meal I cooked up some tempeh to toss with the dish. Tempeh is an Indonesian-style fermented soy product. It is an interesting ingredient that takes some getting used to, but once I figured out how to cook it I fell in love with it. For herbivores and omnivores alike, it is a great source of protein that adds both depth of flavor and nutrition to any vegetable dish.

I prepare tempeh by thinly slicing it and lightly cooking it in olive oil until golden brown. (In this recipe I thought I might try something new and cook it in the coconut oil, and it was a complete disaster. It started smoking almost instantly and I had to add olive oil to the pan to prevent excessive burning.) After it has browned slightly on both sides I toss in a few tbsp of light soy sauce, which quickly sizzles, caramelizes and coats the tempeh.

It is important to keep stirring constantly (it could be described as “frantically”) for about 30 seconds after adding the soy sauce then immediately remove the tempeh from the pan. If you try this at home, be extra careful not to burn it.

Usually I eat tempeh tossed with either kale or broccoli shoots pan fried with garlic, served on a bed of brown rice. I guess it is ironic that my favorite garnish is a drizzle of tahini.

In this case I added the tempeh to the rapini greens. The whole thing was okay, but rather unsatisfying compared to my normal dinners. I probably should have tried this recipe instead.


All in all, this is not the recipe I would choose if I wanted to get people to like a new vegetable. In my experience the best way to get someone to appreciate something new is to add bacon.

Maybe next week I’ll try wild radish rapini again with my own recipe, or maybe something new and exciting at the market will distract me. We’ll see.

Share your favorite recipes (or links) for great ways to cook unusual foods!

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31 Responses to “FAIL: The Wild Radish Rapini Challenge”

  1. Anonymous says:

    honey should not be put in the same category as sugar – raw honey, is in fact, extremely healthy and i regularly put a little in everything from my morning yogurt bowl to my salad dressings (although not an equal amount as the other ingredients). sugar is not “sugar” – natural sugars, such as those found in raw honey and fruits, have an extremely different impact on the body than processed, refined sugars. Raw honey is full of antioxidants, helps lower cholesterol, and has been proven to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Not to mention, eating local raw honey helps with allergies. Raw honey is often classified as a “superfood” – see, for example, or google honey superfood for more results.

  2. Healthyliving says:

    Wow, thanks for all the great pictures along with this post. I’ve seen you write about Tempeh before, but never really knew what it was; sorry your dish didn’t work out, those greens look yummy anyways.

  3. Scott says:

    LOL! Its like the honey industry has its minions monitoring the internet for bad press.I’m fine with honey, but that first reply is obviously propaganda; my own honey jar has this quote on it:”WARNING: Do not feed honey to infants under one year.”Thats because scientists and doctors know that honey can INDUCE allergies and even anaphylaxis. The only reason to eat honey is if you really like honey, and can spare the calories; otherwise it has nothing special to offer.GO AWAY, SPAMMERS!!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Scott, I’m not a spammer – I’ve posted on here before, and am interested in this blog. I’m not trying to spread “propaganda”, I’ve studied nutrition for some time, and think that too often people miscategorize honey. Seriously, chill out. Honey has a lot to offer. Do your research instead of becoming so defensive about someone else’s blog.FYI, infants are also supposed to avoid cow’s milk, egg whites, wheat, citrus fruits until they are a year, and peanuts, fish, and shellfish until they are three. Does this mean that these are terrible horrible foods that must be avoided? If you’re over a year old, then raw honey actually helps with allergies (so long as it’s local) by helping your body build up an immunity to local pollens.

  5. Darya Pino says:

    I am happy that this blog can be a place for discussions, but I hope we can be respectful of each other’s opinions. @Scott Certainly we get industry trolls in here sometimes (See the Japanese Banana Diet post), but it is not fair to assume any dissenting opinion is spam. Trolls rarely post anonymously.@Anon I appreciate your comment and have been searching PubMed for info on raw honey. I don’t have time to post my findings right now, but will do so later today.

  6. Karin says:

    Alright kids, settle down…. Great follow up Darya to your Wild Rapini challenge, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened! Even if you didn’t like the way it tastes, it sure does look good!

  7. Greg says:

    Heeey, be nice to Honey, I love it with peanut butter on a sandwich! And don’t tell me that peanuts are bad too……Funny darya! I hate it when my brain warns me of things, usually ends up bad!

  8. doug says:

    Honey is a movie starring Jessica Alba. I can look at Jessica Alba all day, but have a very low tolerance for terrible movies. And I certainly wouldn’t let any infants watch it. So I think we can all agree: Honey has a positive and a negative side to it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Lol dude Jessica Alba rocks!

  10. Matt Shook says:

    I totally agree with the Anonymous honey proponent. It’s quite true that raw (unprocessed) honey has amazing qualities both when eaten and applied. Wait, what?! Applied?Yes, high-quality raw honey is used by some progressive burn centers as a very good way to help heal burns. There is a ton of articles and info out there.on this…like here, here, and here.Now, I also believe that using raw honey in a salad dressing is probably a bad idea. Raw honey is often quite viscous, so not ideal for salad dressing. I think a dab of raw agave would have been better suited for the task…or even better yet, modding it to your personal tastes like Darya recommended.Add bacon? Ha ha ha…that’s one method. 😉 I think properly cooking a vegetable with a lot of great flavoring is an excellent way to get people interested in new veggies. I made a carrot and brussels sprout dish that made my wife a believer (she hated brussels sprouts before). I never needed much convincing, I loved brussels sprouts, broccoli, and most veggies since birth…I was a weird kid.@ScottThe reason that warning label is on processed honey is because of risks of infant botulism, not allergies. It also is only a risk for children 12 months-old and younger…two year-olds can eat honey just fine. Also, raw honey is actually beneficial for helping one overcome local allergies…I can personally attest to this.

  11. Darya Pino says:

    @Anon @Scott @MattI disagree that honey is not in the same category as sugar, particularly when it comes to metabolism. Honey tastes like sugar and is made of sugars, mainly fructose and sucrose. It is well known that honey also has antioxidants, enzymes and other trace elements, but that does not change its sugar content.Liking honey and choosing to eat it is wonderful, and I did not mean to suggest otherwise. (I spent $10 on it this weekend!). My main point was that regardless of any additional properties honey may have, at the end of the day it is still dessert. Like chocolate. Like sugar.As for medicinal properties of honey, I could only find one case where the scientific community has reached something of a consensus, and that is in wound healing. Unless your wound happens to be in your mouth, this is irrelevant in a discussion of the nutritional properties of honey.One difference between my blog and most other health and nutrition blogs is that I have scientific training. I do not search Google if I want an answer to a scientific health question. Instead I search PubMed, which is an online database of all peer-reviewed scientific journals. Unless you are on a university campus or pay for subscriptions to each of these journals (they average about $300/yr), then you likely do not have access to this information.In science, one study with one finding is usually not considered solid evidence. Studies have to be very well designed and repeated by more than one lab. The same question must be asked in different ways, in different model systems. Mechanisms of action must be elucidated, and the scientific community must agree that the science was sufficiently rigorous.I only found a small handful of studies linking honey to cholesterol (in diabetics only–not sure why). These were small studies of only a few patients published in journals I have never heard of out of a labs in Iran and Dubai. This is a far cry from scientific proof of a role for honey in cholesterol control. One day there may be evidence to the contrary, but today it does not exist.Likewise, although there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that foods with high levels of antioxidants may help prevent cancer, this has never been proven. I wish it had, I would be writing about it constantly. But the fact is that well-designed studies set to test this theory have all fallen short. Does this mean that antioxidants are not important in cancer fighting? Not yet. But you have to be careful when you make assumptions about foods based on their contents. There is absolutely no evidence that honey (or any single food, really) protects against cancer. There are a small number of studies that address the use of honey topically in skin cancer patients, but this is not the same as prevention.Generally I am distrustful of the word “superfood.” It gets thrown around a lot and implies that a food has a special property above and beyond other mortal vegetables, fruits, etc. What bothers me about this classification is that it implies a food should be specifically sought out for these properties and consumed in large quantities. I think this mentality is dangerous because it is too reductionist. If the trends in nutrition science have shown us anything, almost all fruits and vegetables have some special property that makes them unique in a wonderful way. Science is just scratching the surface in food science, and I have no doubt that some overlooked vegetable today will be the superfood of tomorrow. No matter what you eat, the benefit you receive from one single kind of food is likely to be small. Evidence suggests it is more likely that foods work together in combination to prevent disease. Thus the best way to achieve health through food is by eating a variety of seasonal plants. This way you get the best of every world in both health and taste.I’m sure there are many wonderful things about honey. The only point I wanted to make today is that it belongs on the dessert tray.

  12. ManaKultras says:

    Honey is better than sugar. I put raw honey in my green tea. And night tea (i know…..)So 3-4 tsp of refined sugar replaced with 3 tso of raw honey. good / bad?

  13. Darya Pino says:

    @ManaKultrasSure. If you are using honey as a replacement for another sweetener it may be a bit better.

  14. Scott says:

    Thanks Darya, for your well-thought-out response; I meant no disrespect, and like I said I eat honey too, I guess I just got overzealous. I feel like we’re bombarded constantly with Acai berry adds and get-slim-quick schemes that I’m super wary of stuff that isn’t overtly proven scientifically; I guess thats why I like your blog darya, because you truely take objective looks at this stuff and can back up what you say with the raw science.

  15. Darya Pino says:

    @ScottAs always, I appreciate your input. You are right that there is a lot of bogus science out there, especially in nutrition and food science. The great thing about the internet is super-quick fact checking 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    “Honey is better than sugar.”buh?

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid I have to still disagree – I want to clarify that I’m all about moderation (so clearly eating a jar of honey a day isn’t something I’m advocating), but it’s a good substitute to refined sugar. I’m getting a graduate degree in food science and nutrition, and there are studies arguing just what I have stated – these are what my claims are based on. My “scientific” training. I also believe in the importance of eating natural substances, such as raw honey – it is NOT processed, NOT like commercial sugar. Your body responds to it differently, processes it differently. Just as one’s body breaks down an orange in a different manner than orange juice – even “fresh squeezed”. I included google searches because of my interest in getting the public involved in caring about what they put in their bodies, not just what a scientific journal only available to universities that will be unread (and not understood) by the general public says.See: J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jan;109(1):64-7 (even recently this is getting attention!) J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Mar 12;51(6):1732-5. (which focuses primarily on substituting honey for refined sugar)and for matt (salad dressing! i didn’t believe it either, until a good friend who’s a chef told me she puts some in her dressing for some added tang – not too much though, because otherwise it means a lot more whisking!): J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 24;56(18):8650-7. Epub 2008 Aug 30And, as Matt said, eating raw honey has certainly helped with my allergies – my doctor recommended it because I was frustrated with relying on medication to ease my allergic suffering (primarily because it wore off too quickly!) I buy my honey from bees within a 5 mile radius (which I know not everyone has, I’m just lucky to live near someone who makes honey!)Also – on a more personal note – I am someone who has had 4 close family members go through cancer – and only 1 has survived. I sat with that survivor in the Chemo center, in the doctor’s office, and listened to the doctors advocate antioxidants in their diet. Clearly the years of chemo played the most significant role in eliminating the cancer – but the first time they had chemo and numerous surgeries, it came back. And the second. Once that was combined with a strict diet high in antioxidants… he’s been cancer free for 5 years. There is clearly a lot of research left to be done (and I know that this was not the only factor at play), but I don’t think antioxidants can be so blase about dismissing their potential. Antioxidants are also associated with helping chronic degenerative diseases. See Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S52-60And, for the record, I’m not the same Anon that was excited about Jessica Alba. She’s kinda boring!

  18. Darya Pino says:

    @AnonI really appreciate your thorough response and it is great to get your input! I will check out those studies tomorrow when I’m back on campus. As I mentioned in the above response, I am more hopeful about the idea of honey replacing refined sugar than just adding honey to your diet to, say, lower cholesterol. There are a zillion better ways to lower cholesterol. The allergies thing is definitely interesting. I have never suffered from allergies, but for people who do this sounds like a fantastic approach to try. Harmless enough.The difficult thing about antioxidants is that it is impossible to separate them from the whole food. I have NO DOUBT that eating antioxidant rich foods have a massive impact in preventing cancer. The data on this is overwhelming. But that does not mean it is the antioxidants that are doing it. In fact, the data for antioxidants as the key player in cancer prevention is slim. This may sound like a technical point, but it is actually incredibly important. You cannot assume that just because a food has antioxidants it will prevent cancer. There are many kinds of antioxidants that likely do different things in your body. Likewise, there are many kinds of cancer. Based on the data we must be open to the possibility that antioxidants may just correlate with cancer prevention. Even a very strong correlation does not prove cause and effect. In other words, there could be something else in vegetables that prevents cancer. Or maybe antioxidants are just one player in a bigger process.It could be argued that this is an example of why extracting antioxidants from food is ineffective at cancer prevention, and supports your own idea that natural foods are better than processed ones.The important point here is that for cancer prevention I recommend fruits and vegetables, not “antioxidants”. I think we actually agree on this 🙂

  19. Anonymous says:

    YES! to that last point – I’ve become more and more convinced over the past few years how important it is to consume minerals, vitamins; etc in the proper way – one can’t eat processed foods all day and expect to rectify that damage (or even be “healthy”) by just taking a nutritional supplement in the form of a pill!

  20. Greg says:

    Interesting conversation; im inclined to side with choosing honey over sugar; honey just seems more natural, and eating white granulated table sugar makes me feel like a tool of industrial agriculture. Thanks Anon for standing up for us and yourself….

  21. Darya Pino says:

    @AnonI am having some raw honey on Acme bread for dessert tonight in your honor. It’s from Vermont though….Question for you: Why is some raw honey solid and other kinds liquid. I learned this when shopping for this recipe. I went with the more expensive solid one ($10 vs $4) because that is how I roll. But it was an uninformed decision (which is not usually how I roll 😉

  22. Anonymous says:

    From Wikipedia:”…Beekeepers encourage overproduction of honey within the hive so that the excess can be taken without endangering the bees. When sources of food for the bees are short, beekeepers may have to give the bees supplementary nutrition. Supplementary nutrition usually comes in the form of sugar (sucrose) mixed with water at proper ratios…”Awesome! Like unto feeding corn to cattle, beekeepers actually feed sugar to bees so they can make honey. Awesome, and yet so sad.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Anon: this clearly demonstrates that just as one needs to be discerning about other food sources (such as meat, milk, vegetables), the same applies to honey. some honey is processed, and some beekeepers encourage quantity over quality. This symposium on the health benefits of honey demonstrates that the majority of these benefits do not occur when bees are fed a sucrose diet in mind when reading the report that these findings were produced for the honey industry so obviously no reports that don’t support certain health factors were included). The person I buy my honey from moves his bees around so that they always have enough access to natural sources of food.Darya: my understanding is that it’s a combination of age, temperature at which it’s been stored, and the diet of the bees. Also, some honey is strained to eliminate wax; etc, and other honey is not – I’ve heard different arguments that the health benefits are the same, and that each is healthier than the other – I haven’t done enough research on my own to make a judgement (I had no idea I would be the voice for honey!) Hope you enjoyed your honey 🙂

  24. Michelle says:

    Whoa, lots of debate! All I wanted to say is nice job trying something new and they can’t all be winners!

  25. Matt Shook says:

    @AllWow, who would have thought “honey” would have stirred the pot?!Most açaí products are crap, but there are a few that take precautions to ensure the nutritional level of the palm fruit is maintained. Basically the Sambazon smoothie packs (if never unfrozen) and freeze-dried versions are the only ones I would trust. This company has taken steps to ensure that the açaí is high-quality, organic, and free-trade…I have yet to see another brands even come close. Btw, I do not recommend the Sambazon smoothies…they’ve lost their nutritional value.@DaryaBy solid do you mean still in the honeycomb? The solid honey (still in combs) is just another way of consuming honey. Some people like to chew the waxy comb with the honey inside and spit out (or swallow) the wax. It kind of reminds me of those weird wax bottle candies I used to see at 7-11 as a kid. Local raw honey is the best way to go, by far…so maybe find a local beekeeper and give it another shot, like drizzle a small amount on your dorset in the morning.Personally I list raw honey slightly above the “dessert” level, and way above processed sugar…but processed honey, not so much.How you roll…hahaha. Like Jack Black kicking a dog off a bridge…@Anonymous (the one not keen on Jessica Alba)Thanks for sharing all the great information! I think we’ve had a lot of very similar experiences regarding raw honey/allergies and cancer/diet. I appreciate you contributions in this thread, maybe you should register to avoid any confusion with other anonymous posters?

  26. Anonymous says:

    I love that you made a long and complete post about a failed recipe; most the time I only ever read about successes, but I think there is at least as much to learn from the failed recipe as there is the successful one.

  27. Darya Pino says:

    @all Great discussion!! I heart you guys!!!—–@Anon(wiki)That is an amazing point, and really unfortunate too. But I must say I am not surprised, cheap honey has to come from somewhere.—–@MattFor the record, I really could never justify intentionally adding extra sugar to my breakfast (Dorset rocks!!). Whatever small benefit may be gleaned from having some raw honey in the diet needs to be kept in perspective of total health.To date, the best known and most effective method of fighting aging and disease is through calorie restriction. Antioxidants wish they had the data calorie restriction has.It has been shown repeatedly that animals from yeast to worms to flies to primates can at least double their lifespan by ingesting 30-50% fewer calories. Life extension has not been proven conclusively in humans yet, but convincing data in monkeys is emerging (these are long studies!).Since I do not have allergies or notable skin wounds (I did get a paper cut yesterday ;), I can only see honey as a potentially better dessert, not something to go out of my way to add to my diet. I have no objection whatsoever to anyone who wants to eat raw honey, I am just reporting the data and my personal preference.That being said, I have a jar now that I am really enjoying. It is delicious! Had some for dessert last night :)I read about the solid honey. I guess that raw honey is collected in a liquid form but it naturally crystallizes with time if the insect had a particular diet. Personally I like it kind of solid. It liquefies almost instantly upon touching warm bread, but is still easily spreadable. Yummy :)And thanks for appreciating my twisted humor, not everyone gets my movie quotes (Facebook folks always drop the ball). ;)—–@Anon(non-Alba)You should not need to register to make a screen name more interesting than Anon(non-Alba). Just select the Name/URL option and write whatever name you want to be. Honeypie might be a good one for you ;)—–@Michelle @Anon(8pm)Thank you!! For me addressing failures is a very important step for newbie cooks to see. Not everything turns out perfect, but that burrito will always be there if things don't work out.I also think it is important to explain the thought process that goes into making decisions about a meal.You do not have to know what you're doing to make a dish. This is the 21st century! We have the internet!! As this recipe demonstrates, the most important thing is starting with good ingredients, then it is hard to mess up too bad. This meal was a little sweeter than I prefer, but it was still better than most things I could have bought for <$10.—–I just want to reiterate that this has been an awesome conversation and I think anyone who reads it will benefit. You guys rock my world.xoxoxodarya

  28. Car Blog says:

    Don’t wanna sound stupid, but I have noticed Radish gives you a farting spree.

  29. NB says:

    OK anon#1, I went out and bought some local wild honey this weekend (they tried to sell me some of their pollen too….snakeoil?). Looking forward to seeing some improvements in my respiratory function…..I can count on it, right?

  30. Just read through the discussion – interesting stuff, and very scientific! At our honey company, we like to emphasize honey’s varietal flavors (based on flower source, region, season, etc) – rather than its health benefits.

    Yes honey’s sugar – but it’s so much more. Calling honey “sugar” is like calling wine “alcohol”.

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