There are many different types of radishes, each with their own distinctive look and flavour. Their crunchy texture, tongue-tickling sharpness, and colourful appearance makes them a perfect vegetable for finishing off a variety of savoury dishes. But they can also be so much more than a handsome garnish.
Radishes are very healthy, not least because they’re particularly tasty when eaten raw, preserving most of the nutrients. Radishes are a fantastic low-calorie source of vitamins A, C, B6, E and K. They’re also rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, calcium, iron and manganese. This heavy vitamin and mineral load means that radishes are indicated to combat a number of serious diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, and may also help with minor ailments such as coughs and colds.
Here’s a list of our favourite radish varieties. Your cooking can be greatly enhanced by rotating these five beauties in and out of your kitchen. But just a quick tip before you stock up: good quality, air-tight food containers will add days, maybe even weeks, to the longevity of all these.
1. Watermelon Radish
Hardly the prettiest on the outside, what do these have to do with watermelon, you may wonder on first glance. Sure, they’re a little green, but more beige than anything. Here’s a clue: their name has nothing to do with the flavour either.
Cut one open and you’ll be struck by the startling hot pink radiating from the centre. A few thinly sliced discs of watermelon radish will beautify any dish and frequently do in the fine dining scene of China, where they originate. They taste good too. This is a relatively mild radish, juicy and sweet, but cut with peppery notes.
If you live in Europe, you’re probably familiar with this one, although they can also be mistaken for the common and more spherical pink radish. Much smaller than the Asian varieties, these are stumpy oblongs that fall somewhere between fuchsia and red on the colour spectrum.
French breakfast radishes are mild and crisp and suitable for snacking on. As the name suggests, they’re great simply rinsed and tossed onto your brunch plate, adding colour but also serving as a palette cleanser between coffee and food. The leaves are also edible and, at their freshest, can lend a pleasant bitterness to mixed leaf salads.
3. Daikon White Radish
If there’s an Asian supermarket near you, then you’ve no doubt seen this monster of the produce aisle. White, carrot-shaped daikons regularly grow to over a foot in length. They’re native to East Asia, where they’re something of a staple, but are also long established in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
They’re quite sweet but also a bit too thorny to enjoy raw. Fortunately, they pickle exceptionally well, which softens them. If you’ve ever had kimchi then you’ve probably had daikon. It’s what lends the fermented cabbage that much needed crunch.
4. Malaga Radish
Like watermelon radishes, the Malaga is another fancy dan of the genus. However, these are all about external beauty, with an attractively deep purple outer reminiscent of beetroot. That said, good ones are a crisp and vivid white inside, which isn’t to be sniffed at.
Taste-wise, Malaga radishes are the way to go if you find the spice of other radishes a bit too overwhelming. They’re sweet, mild and earthy.
5. White Hailstone Radish
These are the ones that look like golf balls with long and lush green leaves that betray their relatively diminutive size. They’re crunchy, mild and incredibly versatile. If you’re planning to grow your own radishes, these are one to consider, equally great as a raw snack, cooked with, or fermented.
Of course, we’d be remiss to praise the versatility of radishes and only mention salads. We believe everyone shouldtry this chilled radish and avocado soup at least once. It’s as delicious as it is velvety smooth – not to mention unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Better yet, it’s astoundingly easy to make.
Or for a more ostentatious take on summer appetisers, impress your dinner guests with Davide Oldani’s playful radish on a spoon. It will take you a long time to make something very small, but it’ll be worth it to see your friends’ faces light up.
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