Continuing on our series of summer fruit and vegetables we present the humble radish; with local grown varieties just coming into season now, the brilliant radish is fresh, crisp and bursting with a bright and lively balance of peppery and sweet.
Radishes (raphanus sativus) are siblings in the brassicaceae family, known as “the mustards.” They are thought to have originated in South East Asia and India, and introduced to Europe in the third century B.C., with records of their cultivation occurring in Greece and Italy in the first century A.D. Radishes made their way to North America during what is known as the Columbian Exhange,
the period in the fifteenth century when European fruits, vegetables and livestock were introduced to the New World and vice versa.
Radishes are easily grown. Lots of sun and loamy soil will sprout your radishes in three to four days, and the plant will be ready to harvest in as little as three to four weeks. There are many varieties of radishes, with spring and summer cultivars possessing the best names: “Bunny Tail” hails from Italy as does the “Sicily Giant” a variety that can grow to more than two inches in diameter, while North American varieties, more familiar to us, include the more ubiquitous “Cherry Belle,” “Champion,” and “Red King.”
Of the fall and winter varieties, probably the best known is the Daikon radish, the long, pale white radish popular in Asian cuisine, although possibly the best name for a radish is the Gros Noir d’hiver, the French name for the Spanish Black Radish.
Radishes are also good for you, high in ascorbic acid, folic acid and a host of other nutrients.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
66 kJ (16 kcal)
Pantothenic acid (B5)
So now that we know a little about this little marvel, how shall we eat it? Radishes are very versatile, and can be eaten straight out of the ground if you wish, crunchy, spicy and succulent, they are a mainstay in leafy summer salads, and add crunch and zip to potato salads. They are also delicious when cooked, try them in a succotash the next time you make one. Halved red radishes sauteéd with fresh corn, lima beans and red pepper – makes for a delicious take on the classic dish. This smoked salmon and radish dip from Canadian Living is a great recipe for summer entertaining. Martha Stewart’s adorable and easy h’or d’oeuvres, pictured, are simply sliced radishes topped with piped chive compound butter, delicious and refined. She also does a simple and refreshing radish and endive salad. Another favourite is this one from Food 52, roasted radishes with almond salsa verde. There are so many fun ways to prepare them.
We can get radishes all year round but there is something that just feels right about enjoying them in the summertime. So what are you waiting for?