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Radishes

Raphanus sativus


Description

Radishes look like miniature turnips, and are usually red but come in a variety of colours. They have a peppery, sometimes spicy taste, but the heat depends on the variety.

Radishes are a salad crop that grow underground and are excellent for the beginning gardener, or children, as they grow quickly and can be planted around other crops. But if you’re giving junior some radishes to plant, choose a sweet variety such as Cherry Belle so they aren’t put off by anything too peppery.

Radishes are high in vitamins C and B6, folate, and potassium, as well as magnesium and calcium.

If you’re buying radishes with the leaves attached, check that the leaves are still bright green and not wilted. The radishes themselves should be plump and firm and not withered. Remove the leaves to store your radishes, unless you’re planning to use them the same day. Most types of radish can be stored for up to two weeks in the fridge.

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History

There is little historical information available about radishes, though it was well established as a domestic crop by Roman times. Wild radishes, as well as its relatives turnips and mustard plants, can be found in Asia and Europe, so it may have originated somewhere in that region.

They were eaten by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but weren’t grown in Britain until the 16th century. The red variety that’s now usual wasn’t cultivated until the 17th century.

Uses

Both the bulb, or root, and the leaves of the radish can be eaten. The bulb is usually used in salad or as a garnish; for extra crispiness, you can soak it in iced water for an hour before serving. The leaves can be used as a salad green or can be cooked with other leafy greens. If you like fresh vegetable juice, try adding a radish or two to your concoctions to give it some extra bite.

Facts

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the radish is celebrated in a festival called Noche de los Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes. Taking place on 23 December, locals carve radishes into the shapes of religious and other figures and display them in the town square.

In the 1980s children’s television series Fraggle Rock, radishes are a favourite food of the Fraggles.

The radish gets its name from the Latin radix, meaning ‘root’. The genus name, Raphanus, comes from Greek and means ‘easily reared’, given its quick growth.



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