The radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable
of the Brassicaceae family that was domesticated in Europe
in pre-Roman times. They are grown and consumed throughout
the world. Radishes have numerous varieties, varying in
size, color and duration of required cultivation time. There
are some radishes that are grown for their seeds; oilseed
radishes are grown, as the name implies, for oil production.
The descriptive Greek name of the genus
Raphanus means "quickly appearing" and refers to the rapid
germination of these plants. Raphanistrum from the same
Greek root is an old name once used for this genus. The
common name "radish" is derived from Latin (Radix = root).
Although the radish was a well-established crop in
Hellenistic and Roman times, which leads to the assumption
that it was brought into cultivation at an earlier time,
Zohary and Hopf note that "there are almost no archeological
records available" to help determine its earlier history and
domestication. Wild forms of the radish and its relatives
the mustards and turnip can be found over west Asia and
Europe, suggesting that their domestication took place
somewhere in that area. However Zohary and Hopf conclude,
"Suggestions as to the origins of these plants are
necessarily based on linguistic considerations."
Summer radishes mature rapidly, with many
varieties germinating in 3–7 days, and reaching maturity in
three to four weeks. A common garden crop in the U.S., the
fast harvest cycle makes them a popular choice for
children's gardens. Harvesting periods can be extended
through repeated plantings, spaced a week or two apart.
Radishes grow best in full sun and light, sandy loams
with pH 6.5–7.0.c They are in season from April to June and
from October to January in most parts of North America; in
Europe and Japan they are available year-round due to the
plurality of varieties grown.
As with other root crops,
tilling the soil helps the roots grow. However, radishes are
used in no-till farming to help reverse compaction.
Most soil types will work, though sandy loams are
particularly good for winter and spring crops, while soils
that form a hard crust can impair growth. The depth at which
seeds are planted affects the size of the root, from 0.4
inch deep recommended for small radishes to 1.6 inches for
Broadly speaking, radishes
can be categorized into four main types (summer, fall,
winter, and spring) and a variety of shapes, colors, and
sizes, such as red, pink, white, gray-black or yellow
radishes, with round or elongated roots that can grow longer
than a parsnip. There are red globe radish, black radish,
daikon radish, white icicle radish, and California mammoth
Spring or summer radishes
Sometimes referred to as
European radishes or spring radishes if they're planted in
cooler weather, summer radishes are generally small and have
a relatively short 3–4 week cultivation time.
The April Cross is a giant white radish hybrid that bolts
Cherry Belle is a bright red-skinned round variety with a
white interior. It is familiar in North American
Champion is round and red-skinned like the Cherry Belle,
but with slightly larger roots, up to about 2 inches, and a
Red King has a mild flavor, with good resistance to club
root, a problem that can arise from poor drainage.
Snow Belle is an all-white variety of radish, similar in
shape to the Cherry Belle.
White Icicle or just Icicle is a white carrot-shaped
variety, around 4 to 5 inches long, dating back to the 16th
century. It slices easily, and has better than average
resistance to pithiness.
French Breakfast is an elongated red-skinned radish with
a white splash at the root end. It is typically slightly
milder than other summer varieties, but is among the
quickest to turn pithy.
Plum Purple a purple-fuchsia radish that tends to stay
crisp longer than average.
Gala and Roodbol are two varieties popular in the
Netherlands in a breakfast dish, thinly sliced on buttered
Easter Egg is not an actual variety, but a mix of
varieties with different skin colors, typically including
white, pink, red, and purple radishes. Sold in markets or
seed packets under the name, the seed mixes can extend
harvesting duration from a single planting, as different
varieties may mature at different times.
Black Spanish or
Black Spanish Round occur in both round and elongated forms,
and are sometimes simply called the black radish or known by
the French name Gros Noir d'Hiver. It dates in Europe to
1548, and was a common garden variety in England and France
the early 19th century. It has a rough black skin with
hot-flavored white flesh, is round or irregularly pear
shaped, and grows to around 4 inches in diameter.
It refers to a wide variety of winter radishes from east
Asia. While the Japanese name daikon has been adopted
in English, it is also sometimes called the Japanese radish,
Chinese radish, or Oriental radish. In areas with a large
South Asian population, it is marketed as moli. Daikon
commonly have elongated white roots, although many varieties
of daikon exist. One well known variety is April Cross, with
smooth white roots. The New York Times describes Masato Red
and Masato Green varieties as extremely long, well suited
for fall planting and winter storage. The Sakurajima daikon
is a hot-flavored variety which is typically grown to around
22 lbs., but which can grow to 66 lbs. when left in the
Seed pod varieties
The seeds of
radishes grow in siliques (widely referred to as "pods"),
following flowering that happens when left to grow past
their normal harvesting period. The seeds are edible, and
are sometimes used as a crunchy, spicy addition to salads.
Some varieties are grown specifically for their seeds or
seed pods, rather than their roots. The Rat-tailed radish,
an old European variety thought to have come from East Asia
centuries ago, has long, thin, curly pods which can exceed 8
inches in length. In the 17th century, the pods were often
pickled and served with meat. The München Bier variety
supplies spicy seeds that are sometimes served raw as an
accompaniment to beer in Germany.
Radishes are rich
in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good
source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and
calcium. One cup of sliced red radish bulbs provides
approximately 20 calories, largely from carbohydrates.
The most commonly eaten
portion is the napiform taproot, although the entire plant
is edible and the tops can be used as a leaf vegetable.
The bulb of the radish is usually eaten raw, although
tougher specimens can be steamed. The raw flesh has a crisp
texture and a pungent, peppery flavor, caused by
glucosinolates and the enzyme myrosinase which combine when
chewed to form allyl isothiocyanates, also present in
mustard, horseradish, and wasabi.
Radishes are used in salads, as well as in many European
Citizens of Oaxaca, Mexico
celebrate the radish in a festival called Noche de los
Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on December 23 as a part of
Christmas La Navidad celebrations. Locals carve religious
and popular figures out of radishes and display them in the
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