“Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea, let the starved doctors beg on their knee.” Ancient Chinese Proverb
I love radishes!
My grandmother was always hoping to get her grandchildren interested in gardening, so she would help us plant radishes. I think it was because radishes are quick growing (about 25 days), so we’d be able to harvest them soon after planting.
I have to admit, I enjoyed seeing the stems grow almost over night. But despite my grandmother’s best efforts, I was never a big fan of radishes as a youngster. My grandparents loved them, sliced thin and dipped in butter. But even the mild ones seemed WAY too spicy for this little girl’s palate.
Fast forward though years of life and I can tell you my taste buds have changed because I love radishes now.
Why you should eat radishes
Being related to the to the cabbage family (and broccoli, cauliflower and turnip), radishes are low in calories and loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C, potassium and folic acid. So perfect for the digestive system and for boosting the immune system.
Never mind how healthy they were for us; I still wasn’t interested.
So many Varieties of Radish
Over the years I have learned that there are so many types of radishes, mostly broken down by growing season—spring/summer and fall/winter.
Most popular are spring Cherry Belle radishes—round and red with a white flesh. So beautiful! These were the ones we grew when I was a kid and the ones easily be found at the grocery store.
And there are winter radishes, like the winter Daikon—long and white in color—which are popular in Asian cooking. Delicious!
History of Radishes
I love a good story and as it turns out radishes didn’t disappoint.
As with most foods, I love to read about their origins–their history, how they were used in ancient times for healing and even as currency. Radishes have it all.
- Wild radishes date back many centuries to southeast Asia.
- From there they spread to India and other parts of China and Asia.
- The Greeks and Romans were the first to cultivate the wild radishes and used them to promote sleep.
- Greeks made gold replicas of prized radishes.
- Radishes in ancient Egypt (along with garlic and onions) were used to pay the laborers building the pyramids.
- By 1545, the radish had found its way to England, and then to Mexico and USA (Massachusetts) by 1629.
- Shakespeare referenced radishes in his play, Henry IV, written around 1597.
How to Buy Radishes
The radish haters complain about their strong pungent flavor. But pungency depends on size of the radish, the time of the year they are grown and how long they were left in the ground before harvesting. I can understand the dislike. I’ve had radishes so strong that my eyes watered and my sinuses cleared. But, believe it or not, I still liked them. Nothing like a good sinus cleanse.
Here’s what I know about buying radishes.
- I’ve found the radishes with the greens attached are far milder than the radishes that come stemless in a small plastic bag in the produce department.
- When buying radishes, look for radishes that are smaller in size.
- Smaller radishes tend to be milder in flavor. The texture is often more appealing, too—less woody.
- Take a pass on the package of radish slices. Radishes dry out really fast once they’re sliced.
How to Store Radishes
- For me, the best way to store them is to start by cutting off the stems and roots of the radishes. Put them in a Ziploc bag with damp paper towel to keep them moist. Try to get as much of the air out of the bag before sealing.
- I often trim off the greens and the thin dangly root. I pop them in a Mason jar filled with water and cover with a lid. Radishes seem to stay fresh and crisp for several days. I find the water mellows them, too.
- Be sure to leave the radishes whole when you store them. Slicing them too soon causes radishes to dry out. Even their color begins to fade.
- Remember to slice the radishes right before you’re ready to eat or serve them.
How to cut and prep radishes
- Radishes can be a challenging to slice because of their round shape. They roll around the cutting board so hang on tight.
- A handheld mandolin can be an inexpensive purchase and very handy to have for slicing radishes and lots of other vegetables into very thin slices.
- If using a knife, make sure your knife is super sharp. Too many accidents happen with dull knives.
- Remember to watch your fingers!
How to eat Radishes
- Radishes are perfect sliced thin and eaten raw in your salad.
- Try them sliced thin as a topping for your avocado toast.
- Try making a radish salsa—Radish and Cucumber Salsa is a good recipe
- Cut them up and add to your fruit salad or coleslaw for an extra punch of flavor.
- Sauté halved radishes on medium heat, in a little olive oil mixed with butter, salt and pepper, turning occasionally until they begin to brown and soften, about 10 minutes. The perfect side dish!
- Roast halved radishes with a little olive oil and salt in a 425-degree oven for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until softened.
A Radish Celebration–On my Bucket List
The radish is even a celebrity, with a grand festival named for it.
Attracting thousands of visitors and held every year on December 23rd in Oaxaca, Mexico, is Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes). Local artists carve yam-sized radishes grown in that region into animal shapes or scenes from Aztec history and legends.
A visit there is going on my bucket list!