Radish Facts, Nutrition and Health Benefits

Radishes are attractive and nutritious vegetables. They have different colours and shapes.
Radishes are attractive and nutritious vegetables. They have different colours and shapes. | Source

Types of Radishes

Radishes are a tasty and nutritious food. All parts of the radish plant are edible. The most commonly eaten part is the root, however. The roots have a variety of colours, including red, pink, purple, white, yellow, green and black. Most have a white interior, but some have a coloured flesh. They have a peppery taste, which ranges from hot to mild, and add a crunchy texture to salads. The coloured forms give salads a very attractive appearance.

Radishes are classified into two categories - summer radishes and winter radishes. The term "radish" usually refers to the summer varieties, which are the most common type in North America. Winter radishes, such as the Daikon, are popular as well. They are eaten raw and are also pickled, baked and added to stir-fries.

Radish leaves are nutritious greens.
Radish leaves are nutritious greens. | Source

Both summer and winter radishes have the same scientific name - Raphanus sativus - despite the different colours and shapes of the roots.

An Edible Plant

The entire radish plant is edible and can be eaten raw. The roots are usually crisp and moist. Although the leaves are often discarded, they can be used as a nutritious salad green. The peppery radish seeds add a spicy taste to meals. The seed capsules, commonly known as “pods”, can be eaten too, and so can the flowers. Some people like to steam or boil radish roots and leaves or add them to soups and stews. Radishes can also be microwaved.

An oil is extracted from some radish seeds. While this generally isn't used as a culinary oil due to its very strong taste, it's still useful. It's added to some cosmetics as a moisturizer. It's also being investigated for its potential to act as a biofuel.

How to Make Radish Leaf Soup

Nutrients in Radishes

Radishes contain many vital nutrients. The roots are a very good source of vitamin C. One cup of raw radish slices provides about 29% of our daily vitamin C requirement, depending on the variety of radish. It’s important to remember that Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient and escapes from the roots into the surrounding water if they're boiled.

Radishes are also a good source of folate (a B complex vitamin), vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese and fibre. Like vitamin C, the B vitamins are water soluble. Radishes are almost fat-free and are low in calories. Like all plants, they contain no cholesterol.

Radishes and squash at a farmers market
Radishes and squash at a farmers market | Source

Radishes and Health

The scientific name of the radish is Raphanus sativus. Radishes belong to the family of flowering plants called the Brassicaceae, sometimes known as the Cruciferae. The family includes many other healthy vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, rutabagas, horseradish, mustard, cress, wasabi and watercress.

Like many other members of their family, radishes contain chemicals called glucosinolates. These chemicals in turn contain sulphur and give the roots their pungent taste. An enzyme called myrosinase is present inside radish cells, separated from the glucosinates. When the roots are chewed or cut, the myrosinase is released and reacts with the glucosinolates, producing other compounds such as isothiocyanates and indoles. Research suggests that these new compounds may reduce the risk of cancer development.

Investigations are ongoing, but scientists and nutritionists currently recommend that we eat lots of vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables like radishes. They provide many essential nutrients and may have the added benefit of helping to prevent cancer.

How to Make Pickled Radish

Radishes can be much larger and heavier than those found in grocery stores. Some varieties can be as large as baseballs or even bigger. The Sakurajima daikon may reach one hundred pounds in weight.

Growing and Storing Summer Radishes

Growing radishes is fun and easy. Freshly picked roots are the most nutritious kind. The popular red, globe-shaped or oval radishes that are commonly found in stores and planted in gardens grow best in spring and in late summer/early fall when they are planted outside. These are “summer” radishes.

Despite their name, summer radishes don’t grow well in the hottest part of the year. If they’re being grown during the summer months they'll need to be planted in partial shade. Too much hot sun will cause the plants to bolt (grow tall and produce seeds instead of growing leaves and building up their roots). The roots of a radish plant that has bolted develop an unpleasant taste.

If you’ve bought summer radishes from a farmers market or grocery store and you want to store them in your home, remove the leaves and eat them so that they don’t draw nutrients from the roots. The roots will keep for about two weeks in a refrigerator.

How to Grow Radishes in a Container

Planting the Seeds and Harvesting

The soil for planting radish seeds needs no further preparation than is usually required for growing plants. It should be fertilized and have stones and pebbles removed. Lumps of soil should be broken up. The seeds should be planted about half an inch deep in the soil and about one inch apart from each other in their row. Rows should be separated by about eight inches. The plants will need to be thinned at some point after the seeds have germinated. Radishes don’t grow well when they’re crowded. The plants need to be kept well watered as they grow.

Summer radishes are a good plant for children and beginning gardeners to grow since the plants grow rapidly, can be planted in containers and are usually healthy. They can be eaten as sprouts or left to form mature plants. The roots should be ready to pick in three to six weeks. They shouldn’t be left in the ground for too long or they will become woody and their taste will become hot and bitter.

The Night of the Radishes is an annual competition in the city of Oaxaca in Mexico. Large radishes are carved and used to create sculptures. Prizes are awarded for the best creations. The event is generally held on December 23rd.

Daikon from Japan in a store
Daikon from Japan in a store | Source

Winter and Daikon Radishes

The so-called “winter” radishes are planted in mid to late summer and are ready to pick in late fall. They grow more slowly than summer radishes and reach a larger size. Once they are picked, they can be kept in cold storage for several months. Interestingly, both summer radishes and winter radishes belong to the same species and have the same scientific name.

The Daikon is a popular type of winter radish. It has long, white roots that are shaped like carrots. The plant is native to Asia but grows well in North America. Daikons need more space to grow than summer radishes because they are larger in size.

Daikons have similar nutritional benefits to summer radishes. Also like summer radishes, they are a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in many different ways. In addition to bring served raw, they can be boiled, baked, roasted, stir-fried, grilled, broiled or pickled. They can be eaten as part of a meal or served in a small quantity as a condiment.

The leaves of Daikons are edible. As is the case for other radishes, Daikons can be eaten as spouts. Sprouted Daikon seeds are fun and quick to produce and give a spicy touch to dishes.

Planting Daikon Radishes

Adding Radishes to the Diet

Any type or colour of radish is a healthy food and a nutritious addition to a meal, whether it’s grown at home or bought in a store. It's also a good snack. The tangy taste works especially well in salads. Some people prefer to cook radishes in order to reduce their peppery taste. Peeling radishes also reduces their hotness.

One drawback to eating radishes might be their high salicylate concentration. People with salicylate sensitivity may find that they need to limit radishes in their diet, eat them only in peeled or cooked form or avoid them completely. For other people, though, radishes in a raw, sprouted, pickled or cooked form can be a great addition to the diet.

The Sakurajima daikon or radish may become very large and heavy.
The Sakurajima daikon or radish may become very large and heavy. | Source

© 2011 Linda Crampton

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Comments 18 comments

Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

This is a very informative hub - just about anything anyone would want to know about radishes - how to grow them, how to use them and their nutritional value. Too bad I don't like them! LOL. They're just a little too peppery for me.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Danette. Yes, many radishes are peppery, although some do have a milder taste. Maybe some day you'll discover a variety that you can eat!

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

I didn't know that Radishes came in so Many Colors, Alicia. A very Informative Hub. I would think Radishes, Onion, anything with that taste would keep Cancer away, because of their STRONG Hot Taste! Thanks for Sharing.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, b. Malin. Thanks a lot for the comment. I think that many people are unaware that radishes aren't always red! It's hard for researchers to definitely prove that a certain food helps to prevent cancer in humans - there are so many other factors in a person's lifestyle that may be keeping them healthy - but both radishes and onions are thought to contain chemicals that reduce cancer risk.

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi my friend,great information on radishes some of the info i did not know,love radishes with or without a salads .

Awesome and vote up !!!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for all your lovely comments on my hubs and your votes, kashmir56. I appreciate your visits very much!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

Great for salads and so many things, they look nice too adding a wide range of colors and textures!!!! Good job.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Chatkath. Yes, radishes are good for adding color to a salad and making them look interesting. It's great that they're nutritious too!

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Alicia, I love radishes, thank you for a very interesting and informative hub, voting up.

carriethomson profile image

carriethomson 5 years ago from United Kingdom

hey great informative hub about raddishes. i was smiling through the hub as i remembered watching the movie wallace and gromit and the curse of the were rabbit

i do love radishes!! and loved this hub too


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the vote and the comment, Movie Master!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, carriethomson. I've never seen that movie - I'll have to look out for it!

marisa 4 years ago

radishes are bad and they taste nasty have some of that peeps....

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Marisa, radishes are actually very healthy, although they do have a sharp taste which some people love but others dislike. If you don't like the taste, you could try cooking the radishes, which makes them taste milder.

jazman cutie miss love it 3 years ago

wow i just learned something and radishes because i eat them all the time and i love them

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I like radishes too! I enjoy the taste of raw radishes. Thanks for the comment.

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 2 years ago from Western NC

I was making salad for dinner this evening and added a bunch of radishes. Then I suddenly thought: what are their health benefits? I came here to search and this answered all my questions. :) Thank you!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit and the comment, cclitgirl! I'm glad the hub was useful for you.

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    Linda Crampton (AliciaC)1,242 Followers
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    Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honours degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.

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