Peppery, crisp, pungent-these are just a few descriptors that come to mind when I think of this edible root. And somehow it still doesn’t capture the complexity that these little fiery bulbs of goodness encompass.
I read that the history of the radish dates back thousands of years ago and may have originated in china. Ancient Egyptian writings show depictions of their cultivation even before the pyramids. They were revered in ancient Greece to such an extent that gold replicas of the radish were offered up to the god Apollo. The radish even found its way into William Shakespeare’s Henry VI “– ‘. . . when a’ was naked, he was, for all the world, like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife.’ (King Henry IV. Part II. Act iii. Sc. 2.)]
Not only are they rich in history, the radish is noted for many types of nutritional value. They are a great source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, as well as riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and copper. Before the Middle Ages, sailors ate radishes to prevent scurvy because of its high vitamin C content.
As I have become more entrenched in my (think its safe to say) ‘Addiction’ to cooking and my (equally as appropriate to say) ‘obsession’ with cookbooks and food pics, I have become increasingly aware of the radish movement spreading across the culinary world..taking forms far beyond its traditional role as a salad topper. It’s an odd little treasure and its likability hard to rate. I took a quick poll to see just where radishes stood on a scale. This is what I got:
“Reminds me of my moms garden-I like them.”
“Blech..as in an expression of distaste. I have no idea why I hate them, I want to like them, but I hate the taste”.”
“They are crunchy and fresh..I like them..sometimes.”
“Crisp..I love them raw.”
“Sweet and spicy..personally I cannot stand them.”
“I like them-I think of spicy and pepper and summer.”
“Nice fiery bite to a salad..nice change..I like them.”
“Radishes..ravishing..I like them, but not passionately.
“I like them [not love them] but put a bag in front of me and I’ll crush them.”
Based on these comments it would appear that if radishes were comparable to a relationship it would be that one you cannot forget yet in the same breath, the one you question whether it should have even have happened in the first place. It’s no wonder William himself referenced the radish. It’s dramatic to say the least.
I myself love them. Similar to one aforementioned comment, if put in front of me I will also ‘crush’ them…raw with lots of salt. Radishes, which come in several varieties, are rich in colour and texture and there is no denying its sharp flavor. There are many ways to cook or prepare radishes. I have enjoyed them pickled, sautéed with brown butter and salt and sliced thinly for a crudité salad. They have quickly become one of my faves as a roasted vegetable. Simply coat them in olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper and roast them in a hot oven.
So if you are reading this thinking.. “hmm I never really gave the radish a second thought”..think again. It may be like that very relationship that you loved to hate or the one you hated to love..but in either case its likely to stir up something. And isn’t that what it’s really all about?
Harriet van Horne: “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”