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The Killer Radish! Well, Not Exactly.

The Killer Radish! Well, Not Exactly.

Leona Taylor | Chef's Blade

Things being as they are lately, I have had more time to watch the radishes grow, literally. After just a few weeks in the ground, the radishes I planted are taking over my life. Now, this isn’t attack of the killer radishes, just a four by six plot filled with shiny little red and white devils. Which got me thinking, just what exactly are these tenacious roots, and what in the world do I do with them?

“We eat them for breakfast,” said Anne Moses, proprietor of Patz and Hall Wine Company in the Napa Valley. “A little butter, some salt, and a baguette; it’s our French breakfast.” And, in researching the radish, there’s even a variety named for just such an occasion – the “French Breakfast” radish—who knew?

The radish, or Raphanus Sativus, is known for it’s rapid growth-raphanos in Greek meaning “quickly appearing” or “easily reared.” Already an established crop in ancient Egypt before the pyramids were built, the radish traces its origins to Asia where many wild variations have been found. The Romans wrote of long forms of radish in their time, while the Greeks made replicas in gold. In current day Mexico, the radish has its own festival, “Noche de los Rábanos,” where religious symbols and figures are carved into radishes and put out for display on the town square.

Radishes pack a nutritious punch as well. At approximately 15-20 calories, they are known to be an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium. Alternative medicine suggests the noble root as a mighty cure-all for everything from digestion to cancer, and the vegetable is a prominent feature in today’s juice bars. Although the bulb of the radish is thought to be its better half, the greens are prized as well, lending well to sautés and stews.

Many breeds of radish are available. And with a fast growing spring to winter adaptability, there’s plenty of time to try them all. Like the Cherry Belle, the Plum Purple, the Champion and, of course my favorite, el Fuego. Most varieties take just 23-28 days from seed to table, with winter varieties being slower to develop and larger in size. The more recently discovered winter radish, " Night’s Air" is found in caves around Mt. Fuji, Japan and is named for its ability grow without direct sunlight.

One of the most popular versions of radish in Asian cuisine is the Daikon or Mooli radish, traditionally served grated, or stewed, and sometimes pickled. Which brings me back to the question: What to do with my overzealous crop? Our current radishes are not particularly exotic, with just two breeds, a red and a white. The white radishes are longer and spicier, while the red radishes tend to fall in the French breakfast category, perfect with just a pinch of salt. On the internet, I found recipes for radishes in pasta, salads, and stews. There are radishes for grating, pickling, and canning. With so many choices I may fall back to my preferred method: Munching.

Watch a time lapse video of radish growth that Leona submitted!