What is a radish?
Sliced thinly in a salad, crispy red radishes add a splash of colour and a distinctive peppery kick of flavour. White varieties are usually cooked in Asian cuisine where they can be mixed with smoky bacon and shallow fried as delicious radish cakes or cooked in aromatic spices and blended to provide smooth bases to soups and curries.
Radishes originally grew in Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. They eventually appeared about 4000 years ago in Egypt (where they were used to make radish-seed oil) and in Greece. The English took longer to develop a taste for radishes, which became popular in the early16th century.
Exotic varieties of radishes were common in England and France in the early 19th century. The Gros Noir d'Hiver (Black radish or Black Spanish Round), which is still available today, has rough black skin, white peppery-tasting flesh and grows to about 10 cm in diameter.
In Australia, radishes are available in different sizes and colour. Radishes have a hot, peppery taste but the intensity depends on the variety.
The most common radishes are the bright red variety. White radish (or daikon), popular in Asian cuisines, can be long and slender, short and stumpy or even almost round. This type of radish is not as hot and peppery as the red variety. Other radishes have pink, purple, white, yellow, green or black skin. The flesh of radishes is usually white but some have a coloured interior.
Why radishes are good to eat
- Radishes are a good source of vitamins C, folate and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
- They contain minerals such as calcium, potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
- Radishes also contain dietary fibre, which is important for the health of your bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of radish supplies 55 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Radishes are usually grown from seeds. The plant grows best in mild temperatures and needs plenty of water. Red radish varieties are fast growing and are ready for picking three to six weeks after planting. White radish varieties take longer – around three months before they are ready for harvesting.
Harvest red radishes when they are small and young. Gently pull them from the ground or loosen the soil around them. If you leave them to mature, they will be hotter in taste and woody or spongy in texture.
White radishes can be harvested when they are large and mature. These can grow to between 35 and 40 cm long.
Choose red radishes with fresh-looking green leaves. They should be firm and bright. Avoid red or white radishes that are dry, wilted or feel spongy and those that have bruises or cuts on the skin.
How to store and keep radishes
Remove the leaves (they draw nutrients from the radishes) and store radishes in the crisper section of your fridge. Do not store radishes in plastic bags. Radishes can keep for about two weeks in the fridge.
How to use
- Make a crunchy radish and mint salad – combine lemon juice, oil, mustard, chopped chives and mint and toss with thinly sliced radish, yellow squash and chopped celery, then garnish with finely sliced chilli.
- Serve a simple canapé – fold chopped radishes and chives into a mixture of ricotta cheese and sour cream, then spoon onto toasted rye bread and finish with a sprinkle of paprika.
- Dress shredded daikon, ribbons of cucumber and coriander leaves with mirin, vinegar, sesame oil and lime juice – serve alongside ocean trout marinated in soy sauce, mirin and Chinese white wine.
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Better Health Channel
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