Available all year, fresh radishes should have smooth, brightly colored skin, and green, pert tops.
Radishes, which likely originated in China and India, have a history of prized popularity, dating back to ancient Egyptians and Greeks and cultivated for thousands of years. They were used as a remedy for jaundice, indigestion, and gallstones, and as a food source.
Today, radishes’ fancier varieties, like the watermelon radish (green-white skin, red flesh) get attention for bold color, flavor, and their impressive lineup of nutrients and health-promoting plant compounds.
The radish (Raphanus sativus L.) is part of the Cruciferae family, along with broccoli and kale. The entire plant is edible, from the root to the leafy greens.
The root, or bulb, comes in a variety of shapes — round, cylindrical, oblong — and sizes, from small cherry sized varieties to the much larger Japanese daikon.
Radishes range from red, white, yellow, purple, and black and from mild and sweet to pungent and spicy.
A one-cup serving of raw radishes dishes up 29% DV of vitamin C, as well as health-protecting plant compounds, notably glucosinolates, which may protect against cancer.
The main bioactive plant compounds in raw edible radish sprouts — the flavonoid quercetin, glucosinolates, isothiocyanate sulforaphane — are associated with lower risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and increased antioxidant activity (Nutrients 2019).
Radish has been associated with anticancer activities, lowering risk of prostate cancer, destroying lung cancer cells and inhibiting the increase of breast cancer cells. Radish seed, root and leaves may also benefit diabetes conditions, like lower fasting blood glucose, which may be due to its ability to increase antioxidant defense against free radicals. (Nutrients 2017).
The finer points
To store, remove the edible greens and refrigerate in separate plastic bags from radish bulbs and use within a week.
Raw radishes are a natural in salads, adding a punch of color and flavor, and they’ll do the same for sandwiches.
If you haven’t tried cooking radishes, it’s time! Saute or roast them as you would your favorite vegetables. And don’t forget the greens — add them to salads, sandwiches, pesto or a veggie saute.
Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition.