The lowly radish may seem like nothing more than an underused and unnecessary salad vegetable or a cute little red root to make into a rose-shaped garnish, but Raphanussativus is actually part of the Brassicaceae family of plants, formerly known as Crucifers or Cruciferae, and includes such important vegetables as mustard greens, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bokchoy, turnips, and broccoli.
So what’s the buzz on radishes?
They’re loaded with fiber, vitamin C, folates, calcium, and phytochemical compounds that lower your risk of cancer.
- Isothiocyanates and indoles reduce activity that turns normal cells into cancer cells. Research has shown that they cause cancer cells to turn on themselves rather than on healthy cells. Eating radishes and other crucifers over a long term reduces your risk of several types of cancer including melanoma, colorectal and others.
- Fiber in radishes can actually help you lose weight because you’ll feel full sooner and longer, plus they help the digestive tract by preventing constipation.
- Phytonutrients boost the immune system so you’re less prone to infections and wounds heal more quickly.
- Radishes also help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood and normalize blood sugar.
Types of Radishes
Like most plants, there are at least a dozen varieties of edible radishes that range in color from white to black and green to red. Some are peppery, spicy or pungent, and others are sweet, mild and juicy. Radishes can range in size from a small round one-inch root to the 100 pound Sakurjima Mammoth. The most commonly found radishes in supermarkets are the daikon and the cherry belle.
Also called white radish, winter radish or Oriental radish, the Japanese or true daikon radish looks somewhat like a white carrot. It has a milder flavor than the red (cherry belle) radish and can grow up to 1 1/2 feet long with a diameter of 2-3 inches.
This is the round red radish you’ll find most often in the supermarket, and is often cut into fancy shapes and used as a garnish in restaurants.
One unique medicinal use for radishes comes from the early 1900s. Expressing the juice of the white or black Spanish radish can remove or dissolve any hard cholesterol lumps called gallstones that might accumulate in the gallbladder.
- Take 1/2 – 2 cups of the juice of white or black radishes daily for 2-3 weeks, then decrease the amount to about 1/2 cup 3x a week for 3 more weeks.
This treatment has not been scientifically proven, but generally, many botanical treatments have some foundation in success.
Radishes and other crucifers can be eaten raw in salads or with dips, or they can be lightly steamed or sautéed with pastured butter for a delicious side dish. They’re available most of the year, but you’ll find the crispest radishes from April to July. They should be firm to the touch, not mushy, with smooth skin that is not cracked or split. If you purchase them with the leaves on, they’ll stay fresher longer. The greens will wither, but the root will live off the leaves if you store them in the vegetable crisper of your fridge.