Everything you ever needed to know about radishes

Think you’re a radish expert? Take the May 2019 Ingredient of the Month quiz for 1 CEH toward ACF Certification at acfchefs.org/CEHquiz.

Radishes are edible root vegetables of the Brassicaceae family and are cousins of mustard and cabbage. They have a mild to hot peppery flavor and crunchy texture. Radishes owe their sharp flavor to the various chemical compounds produced by the plants, including glucosinolate, myrosinase, and isothiocyanate. They are sometimes grown as companion plants and suffer from few pests and diseases, thus germinate quickly and grow rapidly. Radishes are usually grown as annuals and are harvested before they flower. Flowers bear white or lilac-veined petals. Radishes range in shape from spherical to long and cylindrical or tapered, and the outside skin can be white, yellow, pink, red, purple, or black.

Watermelon radish. Top view.
Watermelon radish (chinese daikon) on marble table.

Radishes are believed to originate in China, but have been cultivated throughout the world for thousands of years. Ancient records note “models of turnips, beets, and radishes were dedicated to Apollo in the temple of Delphi.” Radishes were one of the first seeds brought over with colonists to the Americas. Today, many cultures honor radishes in celebrations around the world.

Radishes are a very good source of vitamin C, which may help fight disease and rescue healthy cells from an onslaught of destructive free radicals. They can be used to help relieve stomachaches, to facilitate digestion, elimination of excess water and to regulate blood pressure. In the past, radishes were used in treatment of kidney stones, intestinal parasites and bad skin.

Healthy Ingredient Contribution

Vegetable harvest. Hands holding a fresh radish from small farm. Concept of agricultural. Young woman picking root vegetables.

Values from NutritionData.com based on Radishes, raw (1 cup slices/116g)

VITAMIN C One serving of radishes provides 29 percent of the daily-recommended value of vitamin C. This vitamin helps the body develop resistance against infections and promotes a healthy immune system.

POTASSIUM One serving of radishes provides 8 percent of the daily-recommended value of potassium. Potassium can help lower blood pressure. It is also important in brain function.

FOLATE One serving of radishes provides 7 percent of the daily-recommended value of folate, or vitamin B9, which supports cell and tissue growth. It is an essential nutrient during pregnancy to help decrease the risk of neural tube defects in babies.

DIETARY FIBER One serving of radishes gives 7 percent of the daily-recommended value of dietary fiber. Soluble fibers help control weight by making the stomach feel full. Insoluble fibers add bulk to the diet and help prevent constipation.

VITAMIN B6 One serving of radishes provides 4 percent of the daily-recommended value of vitamin B6, which is important in cognitive functions, immune function, and steroid hormone activity.

Types and Varieties

White radish in wooden crate

Five common varieties of radishes are:

CHERRY BELLE This is the red, round, radishes that are often found year-round in U.S. supermarkets.

FRENCH BREAKFAST This radish has an oblong shape and two-toned coloration. It is mild in flavor and very crunchy. Most commonly eaten raw (with butter!)

DAIKON These radishes are elongated and white. They can reach lengths up to 18 inches. This variety is a staple in Asian cuisine.

BLACK/ SPANISH These radishes are round with a black exterior and spicy flavor. It is excellent for pickling or grating.

WATERMELON As the name suggests, this radish has a light white to pale green exterior and bright pink interior. It has a slight pepper flavor.

Selecting and Storing

Ripe radishes on vintage wooden table background. Sunny day farmers harvest still life. Shallow depth field, selective focus• Whenever possible, purchase radishes with the greens attached; the leaves should look healthy and fresh.

• Before refrigerating radishes, you should first wash them, remove greens from the top, and place them in plastic bags with a paper towel at the bottom.

• If you have pre-sliced radishes to use later on, keep them in water in your refrigerator so they stay crisp and retain their color.

• Raw radishes and radish greens are often eaten in salads.

• Radish seeds can be used as spice.

• Radishes can be pickled or fermented while still retaining their refreshing crunch.

• While they are known for being eaten raw, radishes can be roasted, grilled, or used in a variety of soups and stews.

Fun Facts

Freshly harvested, purple colorful radish on wooden cutting board. Growing radish. Growing vegetables. Seasonal Cooking, food styling. European red radishes (Raphanus sativus). raw foods concept

• The word “radish” means “root,” comes from the Latin “radix.”

• About seven million tons of radishes are produced every year, representing roughly 2% of global vegetable production.

• The world’s heaviest radish was grown by Manabu Oono, and weighed 68 lbs 9 oz.

• Radish seed oil was used before olives were introduced to Ancient Egyptians.

• “The Night of the Radishes” on December 23 in Oaxaca, Mexico, is a radish celebration featuring nativity scenes carved from radishes!