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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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