Think back over the basket contents of the last few months and ask yourself which item would be worthy enough to be used as currency in ancient Egypt and carried on golden platters as an offering to the Greek Gods. Many tantalizing and exotic fruits including pomegranates, mangoes, perhaps even grapes may be rushing to your mind but in all these cases you would be wrong. The item that captured the fascination of these ancient cultures was not a fruit at all- and most of us would not classify it as tantalizing or exotic. The pungent-tasting little root to which I am referring is actually a member of the cabbage family and is in fact…the radish.
Radishes are one of the oldest crops known to man and it’s really no surprise why they have been so successful. They grow just about anywhere, produce very quickly, require little care, and can thrive in small spaces. Well, small spaces now; the ancient Greeks and Romans would have snubbed their nose at the little guys we grow today. They were serious about their radishes, preferring them grown to an average of 100 lbs and then served up roasted and drizzled with honey and vinegar. (No wonder they were worthy of Olympus)
The health benefits of radishes have long been recognized. Their high fiber and water content combined with their antioxidants make them great detoxifiers for the liver, stomach, and blood. The edible leaves are high in chlorophyll and calcium. And their high Vitamin C and mineral content cause many to rave about their potential aid to skin problems particularly acne. Both the leaves and the red bulbs of the radish are documented to be very powerful in removing bilirubin and fighting jaundice. Midwives worldwide have long recommended teas, juices, and soups made from radishes for nursing mothers of babies born a bit jaundicy.
Their edible seeds, sprouts, leaves, and roots, make radishes a nutritional powerhouse with endless culinary possibilities. Here are some recipes that will highlight their flavor.
Maple Baked Radishes– This simple recipe softens the bite and strong flavor of the radish and gives a nice hint of maple sweetness-perfect for those who think they don’t like radishes.
Martha Stewart’s Radish Dip– Turn the veggie tray inside out by putting the radishes into the dip. This creamy dip highlights the root’s natural bite. Pairing it with the saltiness of feta and the fresh taste of dill is sure to be a hit.
Whole Radish Pasta– Enjoy all the healthy benefits of this primavera style pasta that focuses on the radish greens.
Baked Radish Chips– Create an inexpensive and easy snack without the pricey trip to Trader Joes.
Radish and Sesame Noodle Salad– Enjoy fresh Asian flavors in this nutrient packed salad.
Get the full benefit of the radish by picking up a package of seeds and growing some radish sprouts. In 7 days you will have a fresh, crunchy topping for sandwiches and salads. (Great way to add a living food to your year-supply)
Granted some of us are just not fans of the radish. If this is the case in your house try these simple ways to use up the radishes without making them the star of the show.
• Slice and put on cold sandwiches, wraps, salads, or tacos
• Dice and add to potato, tuna, or chicken salads
• Include in just about any Stir Fry recipe
• Toss in veggie soups and stews
If you still can’t get into the taste of radishes perhaps you will appreciate their artistic side. Their solid texture and bold colors make radishes a great garnish for veggie trays and salads. Get out your peelers and paring knives and try some of these fun, food-art projects.
Radish Roses– A simple way to dress up a platter.
Red Star Flowers– Another easy way to add beauty to your food.
Radish Mushrooms- A whimsical addition to any child’s lunch plate
Radish Butterflies– While this requires more knife skills than some of the others the result is beautiful.
More inspiring ideas including a radish ladybug.
Get creative and have fun working with these fun little roots. After all, they are a food fit for the Gods (and you thought they only ate Ambrosia) Happy Cooking!