Radishes are root vegetables
with a distinctive flavour that range from the juicy crispness
of the familiar red globe radish to the sharp bite of the turnip
shaped black radish. Like their relatives broccoli, cabbage, and
kale, radishes are cruciferous vegetables that offer cancer protecting
potential. They were first cultivated thousands of years ago in
China, then in Egypt and Greece (where the vegetable was so highly
regarded that gold replicas were made of it). Since then, many
varieties have been developed in a number of shapes, sizes, and
In the UK , radishes are usually eaten raw;
however, they can be added to cooked dishes such as soups, or
pickled, or heated and served as a whole vegetable when they lose
their spicy taste, but are delicious. As with many other root
vegetables, their green tops are edible and lend a peppery taste
to salads. While radishes are not nutritionally outstanding, they
are a good source of vitamin C. They make a perfect, very low
calorie snack food. Growers classify radishes by shape,round,
oval, oblong, and long are the most common. Markets frequently
label them by colour, red, white, and black ones are the most
frequently available. Black radishes are turnip like in size and
shape (about 8" long), these have dull black or dark brown
skin. When peeled, their flesh is white, quite pungent, and drier
than other radishes. "Black Spanish" is the name for
commercially grown black radishes, which are available in round
and long varieties.
Although red globe radishes can grow to 4" or 5" in
diameter, the ones in the produce department will probably be
closer to the size of a ping-pong ball, about 1" to 1 1/2"
in diameter. Much larger than that, red radishes are likely to
Radishes with their leaves intact are usually
tied in bunches, while topped radishes are sold in plastic bags.
If the leaves are attached, they should be crisp and green. Look
for well-shaped radishes with good colour. Whether red or white,
the roots should be hard and solid, with a smooth, unblemished
surface. Check bagged radishes to make sure they are free of mould.
Black radishes should be solid, heavy, and
free of cracks. Daikons, which may be found at Asian markets and
many supermarkets, should be evenly shaped and firm, with a glossy,
almost translucent sheen.
If you've bought radishes with their leaves attached, remove the
tops unless you'll be serving them the same day (leaf-topped radishes
are handsome on a crudite platter). Radishes will not keep as
well with their tops left on. The leaves, if fresh and green,
can be cooked like other greens or used in soups. Place radishes
in plastic bags if they are not already packaged. Both red radishes
and daikons will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Black radishes can be stored for months if they remain dry; store
them in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Scrub the radishes and trim off the stem end and tip. Since it
is their skin that contains most of the enzymes that form the
mustard oils responsible for their pungency, you may want to peel
the radishes. However, red globe and white icicle radishes are
rarely hot enough to warrant paring (and it's a shame to remove
the globes' cherry red skin). Daikons have a very thin skin that
can be removed with a vegetable peeler, if you wish. Black radishes
should be well scrubbed; whether you peel them or not depends
on the thickness of the skin. If it is thin, leave it on; the
dark color provides a striking contrast with the white flesh.
Small radishes can be served whole, raw, or
cooked; black radishes and daikons, which are larger and sharper,
are usually cut up or grated.