When was the last time you ate or were aware of that obscure vegetable,..the Radish? Look, I’m not going to fib, I’m not obsessed with radishes. I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them either. Mix them in a salad, sure fine. I’ve never thought of them as some sort of super star healthy food. They’re not a main feature; they’re not even a main selling point to a dish, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I thought it was pretty strange when I read that the ancient Greeks esteemed radishes above all other roots. Apollo said ” The radish is worth as much gold as it weighs”. O.K.,..that’s pretty rad, right?
According to British botanist Henry Phillips’ tome “History of Cultivated Vegetables,”
“In the oblations of garden fruits which the ancient Greeks offered to Apollo in his temple of Delphos, they dedicated turnips in lead, beets in silver, whereas radishes were presented in beaten gold.” In other words, they made gold replicas of radishes! Talk about veneration!
This made me think maybe I could take a second look at the radish. Learn a little more. And so I discovered there are five main varieties of radishes.
This is the most popular in the United States and the most familiar looking radish. It’s small, round and sometimes called a “button” red radish. They’re available year round and, of course, typically eaten raw.
These radishes are larger, approximately eight inches long, and have black or brown skin. When peeled they can be quite pungent.
These are very large carrot-shaped radishes native to Asia. They have a white flesh and weigh between one and two pounds.
Like their name, these guys are long, up to half a foot. They have a white flesh and for you connoisseurs out there – they’re milder in taste.
California Mammoth White
Get it? They’re big. And they’re slightly pungent, too.
I also learned some other interesting tidbits. Hippocrates spoke of the benefits of radishes. And Dioscorides, a Greek physician circa 50AD, thought radishes improved vision and were a useful treatment for excessive coughing. Modern science is confirming some of this. For their size, radishes have a high vitamin C content; a ½ cup serving offers 8.6 mg, or 14 percent of the recommended daily intake. Radishes also contain 1 g of fiber. That may not seem like a whole lot, but it’s 4% of your daily recommended intake. So slicing them and tossing them on your green salad is a good way to let a little extra fiber. I don’t have to remind you all the great things fiber does.
It’s also a thin-disher’s friend. A half cup serving of radish slices contains only 19 calories and 4 carbs. If that’s not a reason to eat them, maybe this will make you feel warm and fuzzy about them: the Chinese started cultivating them in 700 B.C. and gave them as a mark of good-will to Japan, where they became the most favored vegetable and were included in almost all dishes. And, of course, you can always just use radishes as a way to decorate your dish. Many people do this on special occasions. Just Google “radish flower” for instructions!