The word “radish” comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root,” and the Greek word “raphanus,” which translates to “quickly appearing”. This is probably due to the fact that radishes are one of the fastest sprouters in the garden when they’re planted from seed.
A root from the Brassica family and a cousin to cabbage, radishes comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. There are various kinds of radishes with some growing in spring and summer, and some in winter.
Daikon, the white variety, is a spring-summer vegetable. In the U.S., the average large radish is red and round with a glistening white interior and roughly the size of a ping pong or golf ball. The original radish was black, and other varieties come in pink, dark grey, purple, yellow, and two-tone green and white.
The radish was mentioned in historical Egyptian records as early as 2,700 B.C., being cultivated even before the pyramids were built. Romans preserved the radish by using a paste made of honey, vinegar and salt. In Greece, the radish was so highly regarded that they made golden replicas of it. Eventually, cultivation of this crop spread throughout Europe, reaching England in 1548. In 1629 by way of sea, radishes were already grown in Massachusetts and slowly spread throughout America.
Radishes are one of the many non-starchy, low-carbohydrate vegetables. 1 cup of sliced radishes will provide 4 grams of carbohydrates, half of which are dietary fiber, and about 19 calories.
Radishes are a very good source of vitamin C. They also contain small amounts of:
- vitamin B-6
- vitamin K
Radishes are full of fiber and are a natural diuretic, purifying the kidney and urinary systems and relieving inflammation. Eating radishes can help in the removal of bilirubin, a condition evidenced by a yellow tinge in the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes, often present in newborns. This type of jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up in bile faster than the liver can break it down and excrete from your body.
Radishes are not an acidic food and they’re actually considered a heartburn-relieving food in many cultures. Radishes are a member of the Brassicaceae family along with mustard, cabbage and broccoli and they contain mustard oil, which helps to soothe the stomach and lower the production of stomach acid.
Some other positive elements found in radishes include detoxifying agents called indoles, a substance that may potentially fight cancer and work with sulforaphane, another beneficial compound that may help inhibit prostate, colon, breast, ovarian and possibly other cancers.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that are broken down into isothiocyanates when combined with water. Isothiocyanates help purge the body of cancer-causing substances and prevent tumor development.
How to Buy
Radishes come in hundreds of varieties. The types of radishes are usually subcategorized into Garden Radishes, Winter Radishes, and Daikon Radishes. Some break these down even further into French Breakfast-Type Radishes, Black or Spanish Radishes, and Watermelon-Type Radishes. Generally speaking, garden radishes are small and round (about 1” in diameter) and come in a variety of colors (red, pink, purple, white).
French Breakfast radishes are a type of garden radish that grows slightly elongated, reaching about 2” long and ¾ inch across; they are usually red with a white tip. Winter radishes are larger and heartier than garden radishes, best for harvesting in the fall and storing through winter; Black/Spanish radishes and Watermelon radishes both are types of winter radishes. Daikon radishes are long instead of round, often reaching 6” or more in length. They are eaten raw less frequently than garden or winter varieties, usually being pickled or dried.
Radishes are planted and harvested early and seemingly impervious to light frost. When harvesting red radishes, pull them straight from the ground so you don’t disturb the nearby plants. The greens and the roots are used in cooking, especially with additions like spinach. Just wash them well and make sure they’re not limp or yellow. When radishes become overly mature, the root can become pithy or woody and be unpleasant to eat. Pithiness can also be due to extreme heat conditions.
Before refrigerating radishes, you should first wash them, remove greens from the top, and place them in water or with a tea towel wrapped around them. This optimizes moisture content from the rest of the radish and helps keep them fresh for about a week.
How to Store
Radishes store well in the refrigerator if they are kept in a resealable container or a glass container filled with water. Freshly picked radishes can be stored for up to a month. Change the water daily.
How to Cook
Here are some ways to incorporate radishes into your diet:
- Add thin radish slices to sandwiches.
- Make a radish dip by pulsing 1/2 cup of non-dairy yogurt, 1/4 cup chopped radishes, one minced garlic clove, and a splash of red wine vinegar in a food processor until smooth.
- Add a few grated radishes to your favorite slaw.
- Use radishes as a healthy crudité for dips.
- Pickle them like you would cucumbers.
When preparing radishes, don’t toss the green parts. Radish greens are delicious and healthy. They are flavorful in salads or sautéed in a bit of olive oil and garlic. You can also mix them with other greens such as mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, and spinach.