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Radical Radishes: Beyond a Salad Staple

I was sometimes a strange child. I remember going though a phase where I thought the word ‘radish’ was hilarious, and would run around screaming “Radishes! Radishes!” I don’t do that anymore (although I admit I am often tempted when I see radishes in the grocery store.). Instead, like most people, I cook and snack on them.

Radishes are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables and there are many varieties. Ironically, its wild ancestor has effectively disappeared. Instead we have white radishes and Daikon (which isn’t really a radish) from Asia, pungent black radishes from the Mediterranean, and the familiar red radishes available throughout Europe and North America.

Although generally eaten raw, they can also be cooked. I personally like radishes sliced thin and served raw in salads. I may also serve them thin and marinated. Radish leaves can also be eaten early in the season when they are still tender. Radish seeds can be sprouted like alfalfa. The sprouts have a peppery flavour like watercress.

The flavour of radishes comes from sulfur compounds just below the skin of the vegetable. So if you want a milder flavour, peeling can help. Otherwise, radishes are usually eaten with the peel on. Radishes keep well even after they’ve been washed, but they will loose moisture so keep them in a plastic bag or container. They are a good source of vitamin C and potassium, and also contain folic acid and minerals.

Radishes are currently in season. Here are some red radish recipes fro around the world wide web. Enjoy!

How do you enjoy your radishes? Or do you find the flavour too strong and pick them out of salads? Have you tried cooking radishes? Share your thoughts!

This post is one in a regular weekly series on seasonal produce and ingredients. Enjoy!
Sources: The Vegetable Book by Colin Spencer, The Visual Food Encyclopedia, and Farmer John’s Cookbook by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics. Photo credit: Sean, Creative Commons License

Posted in Recipes, Various, Weekly Ingredient Series.

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