Ode to the Radish

by Tyson Pardue

It’s easy to take vegetables for granted, especially root vegetables. One vegetable that my family and I have been eating a lot more lately is the radish. My favorite lunch spot serves their tacos with a generous helping of shredded radishes on them.  And we regularly now consume a bottle of extra hot horse radish sauce every other week.

So what is the story behind the radish you ask?  Good question.  Here you go.  Nobody knows for sure where radishes came from – but there are wild radishes (Raphanus sativus) in South Asia.  There are early records of the German’s bringing radishes to the US in the 1500’s. There are an astonishing varieties of radishes, from short round ones to two foot long tap root shaped ones. They can be sweet, mild and crisp, or bitter and super spicy. They can be white, pink, red, purple, black or even brown.

The thing that makes radishes jump out the most, is the fact that they are often one of the first vegetables available in the spring.  Even here in Central Oregon, I have successfully planted radish seeds under cover in February and had edible radishes by end of March.  However, this early availability has the proverbial “double edge of the sword” in that as soon as temps rise in late spring or early summer, it is very difficult to grow good radishes as they get woody, bitter,  and bolt easily.  So enjoy them while they are available!  Most of Food4All’s sellers will have locally grown radishes in their early vegetable CSA’s.

Most radishes are eaten raw in salads – and this is hard to beat.  But don’t hesitate to cook the greens with other green recipes like kale, chard, spinach, etc..  Here is a simple recipe with an Asian flare that combines radishes, turnips, and onions with Sesame oil and tamari.  All ingredients available to the early farmer/gardener.  Enjoy!

I’ll leave you with a nice short poem about radishes – apropos given the radish’s short growing season.

The Man Pulling Radishes

–Kobayashi Issa

The man pulling radishes
pointed my way
with a radish.