native to: probably originated in mainland China
in season here: year-round
Radishes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the mild white daikon to the peppery black Spanish radish. They’re low in cholesterol and high in nutrients such as vitamin C, folate and potassium. A lot of the calories in a radish come from sugars, but there aren’t that many calories in there so this probably isn’t the place to worry about it.
The sharp, pungent flavor of radish comes from an isothiocyanate compound called sulforaphane, which is an anti-oxidant that (studies suggest) prevents a bunch of different cancers by inhibiting cancer cell growth and even killing cancer cells. They also contain indoles, which are detoxifying agents, and zea-xanthin, lutein and beta carotene, which are flavonoids — more antioxidants! On top of that, there are the more familiar vitamins C, B6, riboflavin, and thiamin, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and calcium.
Historical Chinese sources mention radishes as early as 2,700 B.C. and they were cultivated in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, where they were served with honey and vinegar.
In Britain, radishes were used to treat kidney stones, bad skin, and intestinal worms. Modern-day medicinal uses include soothing skin disorders as well as regulating blood pressure and relieving respiratory problems. They’re also useful for their antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying properties.
Radish greens can also be eaten, and there is a variety of radish that is grown for its edible pods as well. Because they grow so quickly, radishes are a great choice for planting in a child’s first garden.