(Raphanus sativus var. sativus – Family Cruciferae [Brassicaceae])
Radish, small radish, table radish, salad radish
Another member of the Cabbage family (Cruciferae [Brassicaceae]), the radish is also related to the daikon.
The radish is thought to be native to Asia, but domesticated in the Mediterranean.
By 500 BC, the radish was grown in China and reached Japan 200 years later. Wild forms have been found in China and the Middle East; but, in ancient times, the small radish was cultivated in Japanese and Chinese gardens as decorative plants.
The radish seemed to disappear from European literature with the fall of the Roman Empire, but resurfaced in the 13th century.
They did not reach Britain until the mid-16th century. About the same time, Spanish and Portuguese colonists were introducing it to the New World, where Florida is now the leading producer.
The ordinary Greek term for any radish was raphanos; and the Latin was raphanus, which made its way into the botanical classification. The everyday English term is derived from the Latin word for root, radix.
In the 1st century CE, Pliny described an immense radish that was as big as a “baby boy”. Apparently, girls were smaller. Since radishes have about the same density as a baby, this particular radish would have weighed about seven pounds.
European writers continued to tell of monster radishes, with the largest being recorded as weighing 100 pounds, according to the herbalist known as Matthiolus, in 1544. Today, the home of the large radish is the Orient.
The mild to hot rootlets have proven tolerant of a wide range of climates and soils and can be grown and harvested year round. The names of different types can be confusing, particularly as the term “winter radish” is often applied in a nonspecific way.
The small radish might be mistaken for the dwarf form of the black or winter radish. In fact, they are different varieties of the same species.
The radish is usually round; but it can also be ovoid, cylindrical, or turnip-like in shape. They can be the familiar red or white, red and white mix, pink, purple, and black; but the flesh is almost always white.
However, there are some stunning varieties that have produced such dramatically coloured flesh as black and white stripes or red, green, purple, or fuchsia. As with any Brassica member, mustard oils are responsible for the tangy taste of radishes.
The outdoor varieties contain a greater concentration of them than those grown under glass or in hothouses. All varieties from the daikon, the common table radish to the horseradish, are excellent sources of Vitamin C and, ounce for ounce, have about 42% as much as fresh oranges. However, oranges are much easier to consume on a greater scale.
When choosing radishes sold with their greens, pick ones that are small as larger ones will tend to be pithy. The pre-bagged radishes have a longer refrigerator life than those sold with their greens still attached as the greenery leeches nutrients from the bulb.
Radish greens can be eaten as well, although most people toss them out. Just like carrot tops, radish greens can be used in a variety of dishes, including raw in blended drinks or in salads. They can also substitute for arugula.
Radishes are low in calories and high in Vitamin C, folate, and potassium; but relatively low in dietary fiber. They are known to relieve indigestion and flatulence, as well as being a good expectorant.
Like other cruciferous vegetables, radishes contain sulphurous compounds that have anti-cancer properties. They also contain salicyclates, compounds similar to aspirin and, therefore, should be avoided by hyperactive youngsters and those with aspirin sensitivities.
Some varieties include:
Beauty Heart is often sold as a red daikon, and has a striking fuchsia flesh, but can also be green or purple with crimson striping. It is grown mainly in China and treated more as a fruit like an Asian pear.
Blanche Transparent (Transparent White) is a long, small, white radish and important only in the region where it is grown. It is similar to the winter radish in appearance and taste.
Cherry Belle is round with crisp, white, mild flesh and can be harvested three weeks after planting.
China Rose is bright red, with white flesh and a good flavour.
D’Avignon is rose-coloured with a white tip, crunchy, and extremely hot.
18 Day is a fast-growing French breakfast type.
French Breakfast is an elongated radish that sports red shoulders and a white tip. It is milder than the red globe, but just as crisp. If left too long, it becomes hot and woody.
Long Black Spanish is dark skinned and extremely hot. Round Black Spanish is similar, but globe-shaped.
München Bier is a tasty green which can be eaten raw or stir fried.
Palatinate Giant Radish is one of the largest varieties, but no different in taste from its smaller relatives.
Red Globe, Button Red is the most common variety found in North America. The little round or oval ball ranges from one to four inches in diameter and comes in a variety of colours: red, white, purple, or red and white, but all have a solid, crisp flesh.
Scarlet Globe is a popular mild variety.
Short Top Forcing is bright red and excellent for winter sowing under cover.
White radish, winter radish
Daikon (Japanese), Chinese/Japanese/Oriental radish, mooli (Hindi), moo/mu (Korean), lo bok/lo pak/luo boh (Chinese)
(Raphanus sativus var longipinnatus — Family Cruciferae [Brassicaceae])
Daikon is a general term for a group of long, white radishes which need cool temperatures and shorts day-lengths to flourish. These radishes are a serious staple throughout Asia. Some of these can grow up to eighteen inches long and weigh about three pounds on average, but can reach almost fifty pounds.
While the flesh is juicier and hotter than the red globe, daikons are not as pungent as the Black Spanish. In China, they are often cooked; while in Korea, they are pickled. In Japan, they are enjoyed cooked, pickled, and raw, as they are in India, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, just to name a few countries.
In the West, they are most often used in juices as a blood cleanser and to stimulate the appetite. Koreans consume every stage, size, variety, and part of the radish from leaf to root to pod, mostly in the pickled form. Daikon cress is a sprouting vegetable grown from the seeds of white radish or daikon, and tastes like the more familiar garden cress and used in the same way; but it should never be cooked.
Typical varieties are stubby and green-skinned with white tips that are very solid and extremely juicy and have sweeter flesh than the all-white daikon. Chinese varieties may be green, pink, red, white, or colours in between and usually resemble fat carrots, although a rounded turnip form is also common.
Both green-skinned and green-flesh radishes are considered exceptionally delicious. However, the most distinctive are the red-fleshed, green or pink-skinned varieties that stand out from other Asian varieties in use and in looks.
One example is the “Watermelon radish“,
Not only stunning in appearance but also in flavour, it offers unusual sweetness and crunch for a winter root. Some markets label it as a red daikon or as Beauty Heart.
Other such varieties include the following: April Cross, Long White Icicle, Minowasa Summer (a mild Japanese variety), Mino Early (a large Japanese variety), and Summer Cross Hybrid (ready to harvest when about six inches long).
Some interesting varieties include the following:
California Mammoth White
is larger than the White Icicles, oblong in shape, with an average length of eight inches and a slightly pungent flavour.
Chinese Misato Rose
is a round Asian radish about four inches in diameter. Cream and green coloured on the outside, it has a beautiful rosy-pink interior.
looks more like a turnip than a radish with its black skin covering a shockingly white, but pungent, flesh. The texture is drier than other radishes and when cooked, it is mild, much like a turnip.
comes in pastel shades.
Black radish, winter radish
(Raphanus sativus var. niger – Family Cruciferae [Brassicaceae])
is originally indigenous to the Middle East and is one of the most ancient cultivated crops known.
The builders of the pyramids reportedly fortified themselves with this vegetable. The black radish ultimately reached Northern Europe in the baggage of a Roman soldier.
It has been known as a vegetable and medicinal plant since the 13th century and long before the small radish (Raphanus sativus var. sativus).
The main areas of cultivation are East Asia, China, Japan, and Korea. Consumption in the West is of comparitively minor commercial importance, whereas the Japanese eat almost thirty pounds per person per year; and the Koreans eat an incredible sixty-six pounds.
The tuber of this biennial plant is formed from the basal part of the main shoot and a portion of the root. Depending on variety, it can be round, bung-shaped, spindle-shaped, cylindrical, or oval. Its lengths can range between four inches and a foot, and sometimes greater.
Skin colour can be white, pink, red, brown, and purple to black, as well as red and white.
In addition to many nutrients, the winter radish, as with other radishes, contains mustard oils responsible for its intense heat. Spring radishes are milder, whereas black fall and winter varieties can be eye-watering sharp, much like a horseradish.
Sprinkling salt over the radish slices or heating them takes some of the edge off. They are best eaten raw in a sandwich or in salads.
Medicinally, they were used to cure gall bladder and liver complaints, and now, many use them as a blood purifier.
Münchner weißer Treib und Setz (Munich White Sprout and Plant)
is a German variety of winter radish, particularly suited to greenhouse or early outdoor cultivation. It is characterized by its short squat shape and aromatic taste.
The red winter radish
is preferred because of its attractive colour and is not much different from its white relative, but it does lose its colour if heated.
The white winter radish of average length does not turn woody as easily as extremely long radishes, nor does it require any peeling.
It used to be the mainstay of the American farmer throughout the 19th century, but has since fallen out of favour, except for California and New Jersey where one cultivar, the Round Black Spanish (also called Noir Gros Rond d’Hiver), is grown. Almost all of it is sold for the Passover and Rosh Hashana holidays.
Updated December 2012