What's Fresh, Toronto? Radishes!

A post dedicated to the lowly radish? Yes! Radishes need not be relegated to condiment or salad status. Their pungent peppery flavour make them more versatile than you might think, and in some cultures there are whole festivals dedicated to them.

Radishes, Raphanus sativus, are edible root vegetables that are rich in ascorbic acid (a.k.a. Vitamin C), folic acid, and potassium. They belong to the Brassicaceae family with other veggies like cabbage, horseradish and turnips.

The bulging part of the upper root of this plant (the part we laymen consider the actual radish) has been eaten and cultivated all over the world since prehistoric times. The exact time and place of origin is not known for sure, since it has been eaten for so long and over such a wide area of the Old World (from Western Europe to China and Japan).

Today there are many varieties of radish eaten all over the world, but they are generally categorized into spring/summer and fall/winter varieties according to when they can be grown. In North America we are most familiar with the smaller spring varieties that mature quickly in only 3-4 weeks. But there are also the black varieties that mature more slowly and are harvested in the fall.

The most common variety that you'll see in North American grocery stores is the small red-skinned white-fleshed Cherry Belle. Also more popular in recent years are the winter oriental radish varieties referred to by their Japanese name daikon.

toronto radishes

So what to do with these peppery little crunch bombs when you get them home? Well for starters, the entire plant is edible meaning that radish greens can be used as you would any leaf vegetable.

Aside from slicing them up for salads of all kinds (whether it be lettuce, lentil, quinoa, or potato), you can go Franรงais and serve them cut into wedges with butter and salt. They can also add zip to dips, or be used in cold Asian-style noodle dishes, and we all know they are great in coleslaw.

And what better way to top your home made falafel this winter than with your very own pickled radish.

You can roast radishes like you would turnips, which mellows out their pungency and brings out their sweetness. Or simmer them in water, white wine, garlic, onion and thyme for a great side dish. They also make a great relish for pork chops with cilantro, onion, orange juice, lime juice, and vegetable oil.

Ontario radishes are out there and looking gorgeous. So dig them up at your local farmers' market and enjoy.

As the growing season continues, I'll be keeping track of what is becoming available each step of the way, and will share my findings in this here farm fresh feature "What's Fresh, Toronto?" Stay tuned for future installments.

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