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Library Corner

July 5, 2012

Radishes are fascinating vegetables

Recently, I was reading an article about radishes and was amazed at just how much there is to know about the number of varieties and the history behind them.

Who would have thought? Did you know there are only 19 calories in a cup of sliced radishes, but could you really eat a whole cup of them? Did you also know you can saute them or put them in soups and casseroles? It has never occurred to me to eat them other than raw. We all know of our beloved radish with the red skin and white interior. There's also the Daikon radish which has been available in stores for some time. It's very long and white, and is from Asia, a cross between a carrot and a turnip. Spanish radishes are white on the inside with black skin. Other radish varieties include those that are pink, white, purple, yellow and gray-black, and the only ones I've ever seen and eaten are the red globe and Daikon.

Historically, radishes were grown in ancient Greece, China and Egypt and their popularity spread to many different cultures. They were so revered in Greece that replicas of them were cast in gold. The Greek word for radish is "raphanus" which means "quickly appearing." That is so true in the spring when radishes are among the first things to sprout. Radishes have been used as a natural treatment to remedy whooping cough, arthritis, constipation, cancer, gastric problems and a host of other medical conditions. The hot flavor you taste when eating radishes comes from compounds in the plant called glucosinolates, the same ones in horseradish and mustard. So, the next time you eat a radish, know that you are tasting something with a long and colorful history. Wouldn't you love to see a real gold radish?

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