Judy E. Buss
Meet the radish family: one of its members, the pretty, red, round root you sometimes use as food garnish at social gatherings, is probably familiar. Unfortunately, this little vegetable and its many relatives are often overlooked for taste, crunchiness, versatility, and nutritional value.
Radishes, used since antiquity for culinary and medicinal purposes, are a large family of root vegetables related to the cabbage. They come in numerous sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are elongated, others are round and plump. Colors range from white, pink, red, to gray, purple and black. Among members of the radish family are turnip, wasabi, kohlrabi, daikon, rutabaga, and horseradish. These vegetables are heavily used in Central and East Europe as well as in Asia. Oaxaca, Mexico celebrates “Night of the Radishes” on December 23rd before Christmas. The traditional horseradish and beet sauce, Maror, is eaten with matzo as a symbolic dish during the Passover Seder celebrated by the Jews.
Potent compounds present in radishes are also used for medicinal purposes in some cultures. The roots are prescribed for intestinal worms in children, infection of the urinary tract, bronchitis, gout, arthritis, cancer prevention, and for stimulating liver and intestinal function. The vegetables are also rich in vitamin C, some of the B vitamins, potassium, and calcium.
Radishes are widely available throughout the year. Although their leaves are edible and can be cooked like any greens or consumed raw in salads, most produce retail outlets sell the roots only, with their tops removed.
Radishes unique, mild to spicy taste, depending on the cultivar, lends itself to numerous culinary uses: raw, steamed, roasted, pickled, sprouted, or for juicing vegetables. They add a tsunami of flavor to a raw salad, thinly sliced or grated, and enhance pasta or potato salads, sandwiches, stir-fried with meat, or as condiments. Horseradish which is particularly hot and pungent is used by cooks as prepared condiment, combined with a vinegar brine and/or mayonnaise or salad dressing. It is served with beef, fish, and pork, in sandwiches, and some cocktails, such as the Bloody Mary.
Because of the powerful chemistry of the horseradish, it should not be fed to children under 4, or in large quantities to pregnant women. Collinsville, Illinois - top importer of the root – is the Horseradish Capital of the World, and celebrates International Horseradish Festival every spring.
Sliced radishes provide great textural and flavor contrast when included in a dish. 1 -2 finely grated red radishes add a scrumptious flavor to vinaigrette dressing.
So get up close and personal with radishes; tap into their health benefits and fabulous flavor!
ORIENTAL CHICKEN SALAD
3/4 pound cooked, skinless, boneless chicken
4 radishes, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded, diced
2 green onions, sliced, including their whites
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons cooking olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 teaspoon honey
In a medium bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients, set aside. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken and all the other ingredients to the dressing. Refrigerate in an airtight container for 1 hour before serving.
“Mission Nutrition” Tips and Recipe from Judy E. Buss, Health Columnist, Nutritional Cooking Instructor.
Excerpted from Judy E. Buss’ article, first published in the “Feeling Fit” Magazine, Sun Coast Media Group newspapers, Florida.
Stay tuned for more Judy E. Buss’ “Mission Nutrition” words of wisdom and recipes.