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The radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family that was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. Radishes are grown and consumed throughout the world. They have numerous varieties, varying in size, color and duration of required cultivation time. Some radishes are grown for their seeds: oilseed radishes, for instance, may be grown for oil production. Radish can sprout from seed to small plant in as little as 3 days.
Varieties of radish are now broadly distributed around the world, but there are almost no archeological records available to help determine its early history and domestication. However, scientists tentatively locate the origin of Raphanus sativus in southeast Asia, as it is the only site where truly wild forms have been discovered. India, central China, and central Asia appear to have been secondary centers where differing forms were developed. Radishes enter the historical record in 3rd century B.C.. Greek and Roman agriculturalists of the 1st century A.D. gave details of small, large, round, long, mild, and sharp varieties. The radish seems to have been one of the first European crops introduced to the Americas. A German botanist, reported radishes of 100 pounds (45 kg) in 1544, although the only variety of that size today is the Japanese Sakurajima radish. The large, mild, and white East Asian form was developed in China but is mostly associated in the West with the Japanese daikon, owing to Japanese agricultural development and larger exports.
Radishes (Raphanus sativus) are annual or biennial brassicaceous crops grown for their swollen tap-roots which can be globular, tapering or cylindrical. The root skin colour ranges from white through pink, red, purple, yellow and green to black but the flesh is usually white. Smaller types have a few leaves about 13 cm (5 in) long with round roots up to 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter or more slender, long roots up to 7 cm (3 in) long. Both of these are normally eaten raw in salads. A longer root form, including oriental radishes, daikon or mooli and winter radishes, grows up to 60 cm (24 in) long with foliage about 60 cm (24 in) high with a spread of 45 cm (18 in). The flesh of radishes harvested timely is crisp and sweet, but becomes bitter and tough if the vegetable is left in the ground for too long. Leaves are arranged in a rosette. They have a lyrate shape, meaning they are divided pinnately with an enlarged terminal lobe and smaller lateral lobes. The white flowers are borne on a racemose inflorescence. The fruits are small pods which can be eaten when young.
Radishes grow best in full sun and light, sandy loams with pH 6.5–7.0. They are in season from April to June and from October to January in most parts of North America; in Europe and Japan they are available year-round due to the plurality of varieties grown.
Summer radishes mature rapidly, with many varieties germinating in 3–7 days, and reaching maturity in three to four weeks. Harvesting periods can be extended through repeated plantings, spaced a week or two apart.
Most soil types will work, though sandy loams are particularly good for winter and spring crops, while soils that form a hard crust can impair growth. The depth at which seeds are planted affects the size of the root, from 1 cm (0.4 in) deep recommended for small radishes to 4 cm (1.6 in) for large radishes.
Radishes are a common garden crop in the U.S., and the fast harvest cycle makes them a popular choice for children's gardens.
In temperate climates, it is customary to plant radishes every two weeks from early spring until a few weeks before the first frost, except during periods of hot weather. In warm-weather climates, they are normally planted in the fall.
Radishes serve as companion plants for many other species, because of their ability to function as a trap crop against pests like flea beetles. These pests will attack the leaves, but the root remains healthy and can be harvested later.
Although often unintentionally introduced, the larvae of Pieris rapae, the small white butterfly is known to pest on the leaves of the radish.
Broadly speaking, radishes can be categorized into four main types (summer, fall, winter, and spring) and a variety of shapes lengths, colors, and sizes, such as red, pink, white, gray-black or yellow radishes, with round or elongated roots that can grow longer than a parsnip.
Sometimes referred to as European radishes or spring radishes if they are planted in cooler weather, summer radishes are generally small and have a relatively short 3–4 week cultivation time.
Black Spanish or Black Spanish Round occur in both round and elongated forms, and are sometimes simply called the black radish or known by the French name Gros Noir d'Hiver. It dates in Europe to 1548, and was a common garden variety in England and France during the early 19th century. It has a rough black skin with hot-flavored white flesh, is round or irregularly pear shaped, and grows to around 10 cm (4 in) in diameter.
Daikon refers to a wide variety of winter oilseed radishes from Asia. While the Japanese name daikon has been adopted in English, it is also sometimes called the Japanese radish, Chinese radish, Oriental radish or mooli (in India and South Asia). Daikon commonly have elongated white roots, although many varieties of daikon exist. One well known variety is April Cross, with smooth white roots. The New York Times describes Masato Red and Masato Green varieties as extremely long, well suited for fall planting and winter storage. The Sakurajima radish is a hot-flavored variety which is typically grown to around 10 kg (22 lb), but which can grow to 30 kg (66 lb) when left in the ground.
The seeds of radishes grow in siliques (widely referred to as "pods"), following flowering that happens when left to grow past their normal harvesting period. The seeds are edible, and are sometimes used as a crunchy, spicy addition to salads. Some varieties are grown specifically for their seeds or seed pods, rather than their roots. The Rat-tailed radish, an old European variety thought to have come from East Asia centuries ago, has long, thin, curly pods which can exceed 20 cm (8 in) in length. In the 17th century, the pods were often pickled and served with meat. The München Bier variety supplies spicy seed pods that are sometimes served raw as an accompaniment to beer in Germany.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||66 kJ (16 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1.6 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. One cup of sliced red radish bulbs provides approximately 19 Calories, largely from carbohydrates.
The bulb of the radish is usually eaten raw, although tougher specimens can be steamed. The raw flesh has a crisp texture and a pungent, peppery flavor, caused by glucosinolates and the enzyme myrosinase, which combine when chewed to form allyl isothiocyanates, also present in mustard, horseradish, and wasabi.
Radish leaves are sometimes used in recipes, like potato soup or as a sauteed side dish. They are also found to benefit homemade juices; some recipes even call for them in fruit-based mixtures.
Radishes may be used in salads, as well as in many European dishes.
The seeds of the Raphanus sativus species can be pressed to extract seed oil. Wild radish seeds contain up to 48% oil content; while not suitable for human consumption, the oil is a potential source of biofuel. The oilseed radish grows well in cool climates.
The daikon varieties of radish are important parts of East, Southeast, and South Asian cuisine. In Japan and Korea, radish dolls are sometimes made as children's toys. Daikon is also one of the plants that make up the Japanese Festival of Seven Herbs (Nanakusa no sekku) on the seventh day after the new year.
Citizens of Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrate the Night of the Radishes (Noche de los Rábanos) on December 23 as a part of Christmas celebrations. Locals carve religious and popular figures out of radishes and display them in the town square.
About seven million tons of radish are produced yearly, representing roughly two percent of the global vegetable production.
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