Most of us know radishes as those red outlined white discs in our salads. But radishes come in a variety of shapes and colors. These root vegetables can be red, purple, even blackish in color. Most are roundish in shape with a thin stringy root at the end. But some are more cylindrical in form. There are over 250 different types of radishes.
Radishes, believe it or not, are cousins to kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbages as part of the cruciferous vegetable family. They are one of the easiest and fastest edible plants to grow either in the garden or indoors in pots. If you are growing the plants by seed, some varieties can be planted in winter as long as you plant them a good two inches down in the soil and two inches apart. More commonly, the seeds are planted in the early spring at 3/4 to 1 inch depth. Once they begin to leaf out, the plants should be thinned to six inches apart. But don’t discard them. Wash and tear the leaves up in your next salad.
Winter radishes can survive the first frosts and will actually be a bit sweeter is left in the ground. But be sure to pull them before the first big freeze.
Spring radishes need six hours of light a day and a pH in the soil of 5.8 to 6.8. They should be planted a good month to six weeks prior to the last expected frost. The optimum weather for these radishes is 50-65 degrees, otherwise they will wither and become bitter tasting. Mulching around the stems is necessary so the plants can retain water and thwart weeds.
Nutritional Benefits of Radishes
Radishes are most often served raw and sliced into salads. Some are carved into rose bud petal shapes as a garnish. But in many cultures, radishes are also known as daikons. They are cooked or boiled into stews and other dishes. The oil from the seeds has medicinal purposes for the liver and skin in folk medicine.
The scientific name for the radish is Raphanus Sativus and it comes from the Brassicaceae family. Radishes are beneficial for the digestive system, especially the liver because of its sulphur base. Because they are so rich in roughage, otherwise known as indigestible carbohydrates, they assist the intestines and colon in eliminating waste. The black radish bulb, as well as the leaves, are used as an herbal treatment for jaundice because it promotes the flow of bilirubin and bile. People eat radishes as a detoxifier.
Radish leaves contain ten times more Vitamin C than the root bulb, so often radish leaves are served in salads as well. Both the leaves and the root are rich in calcium, potassium and copper. The Red Globes contain molybdenum which nutritionists are discovering is an essential enzyme all life requires to thrive.
For 100 grams of radishes, or about 3.5 ounces:
Carbohydrates 3.4 g
Fiber 1.6 g
Protein 0.68 g
Fat 0.10 g
Calcium 25 mg
Potassium 233 mg
Vitamin C 14.8 mg
Vitamin B complexes:
(Riboflavin, Niacin, Thiamine, B6, Folate) 0.541 mg
Radish Cautions and Concerns
There is a great deal of talk about the prevention of cancer benefits of radishes. Many people claim it to be a cure-all for rashes, fevers and inflamed muscles.
More substantiated are studies that show, because of the potassium found in such great quantities, radishes may be beneficial for those suffering from high blood pressure. However, if you are on anti-coagulants, check with your doctor before eating them.
Black radishes may also be a cholesterol reducer, but so far the studies have been done on rats and not humans. If you have thyroid problems, consult your physician before adding radishes to your diet as the goitrogens in them can affect the thyroid’s function. And, of course, all radish root bulbs and leaves should be thoroughly washed prior to consumption.
Want to learn more about the health benefits of radishes?
For more information about radishes, how to grow them and their potential health benefits, check out these websites:
Radish Nutrition from the CDC
Growing Radishes in Your Garden from University of Illinois Extension