Season for Radishes Available Year Round
From the Latin word for "root," the radish is indeed the root of a plant belonging to the mustard family, hence its firey taste (though they can be mild too). A radish's color both inside and out can span the color spectrum (and wow the eyes!) from white, red, purple and black - and tons of shades in between. It's shape and size can also vary wildly, from round, oval or elongated to a half inch in diameter or parsnip-like giants (such as the daikon) that can be a foot and a half in length. Most commonly in the US is the globe radish, an oval and red-skinned variety that can come as small as a cherry tomato or as large as a mandarin. Others you may come across are the black radish, daikon radish, white icicle radish, and California mammoth white radish.
How to Buy and Store Radishes
Available year-round, radishes are actually members of the cruciferous vegetable family, meaning you can eat their green tops much to the benefit of your body. So while radishes are sold trimmed (in plastic bags), we recommend purchasing them with their greens and roots attached. In the summer, go for smaller radishes that will be tender and juicy, but in the winter you can opt for larger, more mature radishes. Choose those that feel firm when gently squeezed with leaves that are lively, green and crisp. Remove and store the roots and leaves separately, where the bulbs will keep wrapped in the refrigerator for up to five days and the green only a couple of days.
How to Cook Radishes
The true flavor of a radish is best showcased when eaten raw - adding a crunch, a beautiful aesthetic and peppery touch as a garnish or ingredient in all sorts of dishes - think lentil or pasta salad accoutrement. Scrub your radishes under cold water and trim root ends just before using. For added crispness, soak radishes in icewater for a couple of hours. You can cut them or leave them whole based upon their size, though a really thin slice makes for a delicate, gorgeous touch. Daikon can also be picked to great effect. And their greens can be added to salads raw or cooked as you would any other greens.
Health Benefits of Radishes
Radishes have been revered as a powerful food throughout history. It's said the Greek physician Androcydes ordered his patients to eat radish to avoid getting intoxicated, which makes sense given they stimulate the function of our livers and digestion. Radishes and their leaves are an excellent source of vitamin C. Globe radishes are a very good source of the trace mineral molybdenum and a good source of folic acid and potassium. Daikons are a very good source of copper and potassium. Radish leaves are a good source of calcium. Studies have found radishes can aid the body in the lowering of cholesterol, blood pressure and chances of getting certain cancers.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Radishes
Radishes are actually sometimes used as a natural pesticide owing to their hot peppery flavor which is indicative of compounds - principally isothiocyanates - that suppress pests and pathogens. So it's justifiable to say that radishes require less pesticides in their cultivation than other fruits and veggies. Of course, the only way for you to be sure you're buying produce free from harmful chemicals is to purchase them from a certified organic farmer. It's also your way of voting for sustainable practices with your dollars and your fork.