Regards to the Radish

Radishes were first cultivated thousands of years ago in China, then in Egypt and Greece. Radishes were so highly regarded in Greece that gold replicas were made. The radish did not make its way to England until approximately 1548. By 1629 they were being cultivated in Massachusetts.

Radish is a cool-season, fast-maturing, easy-to-grow vegetable. Garden radishes can be grown where ever there is sun and moist, fertile soil, even on the smallest city lot. Early varieties usually grow best in the cool days of early spring, but some later-maturing varieties can be planted for summer use.

Radishes are available year round. Choose medium-size that are firm, rounded and should be of good color. Larger radishes tend to be pithy. Check for spongy feeling. Do not buy radishes with yellow or decayed tops.

Varieties include black, California mammoth whites, daikons, red globe and white icicles.

Radish leaves can be added to salads of stir fried vegetables to add a little zest to the flavor. They are not as spicy as radishes.

The most common uses for radishes are as a garnish or as an ingredient in a green salad.

Radish Folklore

Radishes were first grown thousands of years ago in ancient China, Egypt and Greece. This spicy, colorful vegetable soon became beloved in many cultures. In fact, in ancient Greece, radishes were so highly regarded that gold replicas were made of them.

The Greek name for the radish, Raphamus, means “quickly appearing,” which perfectly describes their reputation for being the first vegetable to sprout in a spring garden.

Radishes were used in traditional Asian medicine for ailments such as whooping cough, cancer, gastric problems, constipation, arthritis, and parasites.

Radish Facts

Part of the Brassica family (also known as the mustard or cabbage family), radishes (Raphanus sativus) are edible roots that come in an astonishing variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Though most people equate the radish with the most popular variety in the U.S., the Red Globe, radishes can be pink, white, gray-black, purple or yellow, and have long turnip-like roots.

Radishes are naturally low in calories, yet they contain rich supplies of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium. Their pungent flavor is due to plant compuonds called glucosinolates, which are also found in mustard, horseradish and wasabi.

“In February, in the New of the Moon, sow Borage, Coriander, Marjoram, Radish, Rosemary and Sorrel.” – Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1683

Radish Research

Research indicates that glucosinolates may have cancer-fighting potential, and that eating Brassica vegetables helps protect against rectal and colon cancer. These vegetables aid in the detoxification of carcinogens and enhance the activity of several liver enzymes that are part of the body’s natural detoxification system.

Radishes also contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanidins – compounds that lend radishes their vivid color and protect against cancer and heart disease. Researchers from India found that radish consumption may reduce the risk of gallbladder cancer by 60 percent.

Selections and Storage

Red Globe Radishes

This radish variety is the most popular in the United States and is the familiar looking red and white radish. It is small, round or oval shaped, sometimes referred to as “button” red radishes. They range in diameter from one to four inches (most commonly closer to one inch) and have a solid, crisp, flesh. Available year-round.

Summer Radish

Radishes have often been dismissed as decoration and garnish. They are actually members of the cruciferous vegetable family so eat the greens. Because they vary in keeping quality, radishes are classified as winter or summer. Summer radishes are the small ones of bold red, pink, purple, white or red and white. They may be globe-shaped or elongated, fiery hot or mild.

Harvest summer radishes when they are small and tender for optimal flavor. Oversize summer radishes can become tough, woody, hallow and strong in flavor. To check a large radish squeeze gently, if it yields to pressure it is likely to be fibrous. These will do well in the compost heap.

Winter Radish

Harvest winter radishes when they are large and mature. Winter radishes may be white, black or green. Black radishes have a pungent flavor and should be used sparingly. Remove greens and roots before storing black radishes. Chinese radishes, round and fat, are milder in flavor. Remove greens before storing; remove roots just before preparing.

The word daikon means “great root” in Japanese. In cool weather, daikon growth is quick and steady. The fully mature daikon can grow up to about 18 inches long and weighs 5 or 6 pounds. There are several varieties. Some are thin and long, while others are short and round. All radish greens are edible.

Storage

Radishes should be blemish-free and crisp. Store radishes up to a week in the refrigerator without their stalks or leaves.

Save the young thinnings of both summer and winter radishes. They are delicious with tops and bottoms intact. Both summer and winter radishes store well in the refrigerator once the tops have been removed. The radish leaves cause moisture and nutrient loss during storage. Store greens separately for 2 to 3 days. Refrigerate radishes wrapped in plastic bags for 5 to 7 days. Winter radish varieties can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Preparing Radishes

To prepare radishes, select those that are firm and brightly colored, trim tops and ends, and scrub – but don’t peel them; flavor and nutritients reside in their skins. Venture into the radish world by trying new varieties such as Daikon, an Asian radish that’s a cross between a white carrot and turnip, or Black Spanish radishes, which boast spicy, white flesh beneath black skin.

Frequently, people reserve radishes as a garnish (think of radish roses), but a new culinary trend finds chefs showcasing the peppery flavor of radishes on the menu. You probably know that the crisp texture and jewel tones of raw radishes suit slaws, salads and vegetable platters perfectly, but did you know they are equally delicious cooked?

Saute radishes with fresh herbs, add them to soups and casseroles or stir fry them.

Dutch Breakfast

If you’re looking for a truly spectacular way to enjoy radishes, try this eye-opening Dutch breakfast: Slice radishes onto lightly buttered bread and bite in.

Key Nutrients in Radishes

Per 1-cup sliced:

  • Calories: 19
  • Vitamin C: 17.2 milligrams (29 percent DV)
  • Folate: 29 micrograms (7 percent DV)
  • Potassium: 270 milligrams (8 percent DV)
  • Dietary fiber: 2 grams (7 percent DV)

Sauteed Radishes and Radish Greens

Remove stems and leaves from 1 pound radishes and quarter. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Saute radishes until soft, five minutes. Add leaves, 2 minced cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper and a pinch of sugar. Saute until leaves are wilted, about 1 minute more.

Watermelon Radishes in Sherry Vinegar

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon each Asian sesame oil and kosher salt. Cut one-half pound watermelon radishes into matchsticks with a sharp knife. Add to vinegar mixture and marinate 30 minutes. Stir and garnish with sprigs of cilantro.

watermelon radish

French Breakfast Radish Tartine

Remove stems and leaves from 1 pound French breakfast radishes. Slice in halves. Spread unsalted butter on one baguette, cut into slices. Sprinkle with salt. Layer leaves and 4 to 6 radish halves on each baguette.

French breakfast radish

Recipe: Sauteed Radishes

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 bunches fresh radishes, tops trimmed, quartered (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Heat olive oil and water in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add radishes and pepper. Saute radishes, stirring often, until they begin to brown and are crisp-tender (about 8 minutes). Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Nutrition information per serving: 38 calories, 1 gram protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 4 milligrams sodium

Recipe: Cream Cheese and Radishes on Wasa Crackers

The gritty, rough texture of a Wasa Cracker is particularly appealing with creamy, tart cheese.

  • 1 Wasa cracker
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
  • 4 radishes, very thinly sliced

Lay the cracker on a flat surface and spread with the cream cheese. Top with the radishes.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 76; Fat: 0.4g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 2mg; Sodium: 245mg; Carbohydrates: 12.3g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Protein: 6.3g

Other Ways to Eat Radishes

  • Grate red radishes into pasta or bean salads for a slightly different taste and texture.
  • Add red radishes to a vegetable tray for an added bright burst of color.
  • Try a white radish variety. Add half a cup into vegetable soup.

Read More: Food Facts