A slightly-spicy, red, crunchy little ball jumps to mind when thinking about radishes. Like many vegetables, radishes are judged against a very specific variety that consumers have become accustomed to at their local grocery store. However, they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and different varieties are best suited to different uses! Radishes are a favorite for our farmers and chefs because of their ease of planting, many varieties available, and versatility in dishes. Although our farms don’t utilize this attribute explicitly, radishes naturally release a chemical called isothiocyanate that can act as a pest, weed and pathogen repellent.
Some of our favorite, lesser-known varieties of radish:
Watermelon Radishes, a variety best known for it’s beautiful pink and white interior, as well as it’s pickling ability. Watermelon radishes are milder than most radishes, peppery with almond notes. They are a favorite on salads, and as garnish at fancier restaurants, because of their colorful insides. In Chinese cuisine, they are often served with fish, as many believe the sweetness of watermelon radish cuts some of the fishiness. If you’re looking for watermelon radishes in a seed catalog, they are often still listed under “Red Meat” radish. As they became more popular at farmers markets around the U.S., vendors had to find a more appealing moniker! Grist has a great intro article on pickling and storing watermelon radishes.
One of the most famous varieties of Radish, Daikon has a long and white root and edible leaves and grows primarily in Southeast Asia. Its juice is widely known for its health benefits, including respiratory cleaning (it’ll clear out your phlegm very fast!), anti-inflammatory properties, and digestion improvement. Daikon is one of those radishes that can be used in almost anything – soups, salads, curries and, most commonly in Japan and China, pickled.
Black radishes may seem huge compared to your regular grocery store radishes, usually, they grow to 2-3x the size! Encased in a dark brown shell, the interior flesh of a black radish is actually a bright white, with a spicy bite. Most commonly used for health supplements in modern times, black radishes are hearty sources of vitamin C and are also excellent at fighting infections. To tone down the heat of black radishes, you can slice, salt, and rinse prior to use in a dish. We’d recommend black radish chips or black radish pickles if you get your hands on this unique vegetable.