Humanity has a long-lasting relationship with the radish. The humble root vegetable is grown in every corner of the world. The origin of the plant is unknown due to the fact that so many varieties grow in so many areas of the world. Determining where a vegetable originated depends upon finding wild varieties, which is difficult with radishes because they grow wild in many places. Southeast Asia is considered the birthplace of radishes since there are large numbers of wild radishes there. The world loves radishes because they are quick and easy to grow and are not plagued by any serious diseases. Radishes were one of the first vegetables introduced to the Americas by Europeans because they grow so quickly and easily. The radish typically has white flesh but the skin can vary from deep red to pink to green and even to white. The plant is mostly used for its bulbous root, but the leaves, stems and seeds are all edible. The root of the radish itself is generally used raw and it has a crunchy texture and peppery flavor. Radishes come in broad categories defined by their growing season: spring, summer or winter. Spring and summer radishes have a shorter growing period and are generally small and mild.  Winter radishes have a longer growing season and are typically bigger and meatier. Spring radishes are typically bulbous, whereas the winter varieties are longer, almost carrot-shaped. Spring radishes are usually eaten raw, winter radishes are generally cooked.

The spring and summer radish’s milder flavor does not stand up particularly well to cooking, so they are typically eaten raw. Winter radishes, conversely, can be unpleasantly tough and overly spicy when raw. One of the best ways to eat raw radish is to thickly slice them, coat them with butter and salt, and serve on fresh bread. Slices of radish are a great addition to any salad. The greens of the radish plant can be added to a salad as well. Slices of raw radish are a great topping for sandwiches. Effective cooking methods for radishes include steaming, roasting and boiling. The color of the radish can be brightened by adding a few drops of lemon juice to the cooking liquid. Radishes are often used as an ingredient in soups, especially alongside other root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, carrots and turnips. Pasta with radish greens is a unique and flavorful dish. The recipe is simple: cook linguine, coat the pasta in olive oil and melt in a hearty helping of parmesan cheese. While the pasta is cooking, sauté chopped radishes, chopped onion and diced garlic. Once the onions are translucent, mix with the drained pasta and salt and pepper to taste. For an easy, everyday side dish, braise radishes in a small amount of water, butter, salt and pepper for a tasty side dish. Serve grilled shrimp with fresh radish and jicama for a light, fresh summertime meal. Radishes add some crunch and body to crab and lobster rolls. Radishes are more than just a salad topping! They are a versatile, flavorful vegetable that can add zip to any meal.

When picking radishes, look for ones that are mostly smooth and free from obvious blemishes and breaks in the skin. Look at the greens of the radish if they are still attached. Pick radishes that have fresh, crisp greens. To store radishes, begin by removing their greens and stems because they will cause the radish to lose moisture more quickly. If kept dry, radishes will stay fresh and crispy in the refrigerator for about two days. To store radishes for longer than that, dampen the vegetables and store them in a plastic bag, filled with a damp paper towel and keep in the refrigerator. Alternatively, store radishes in the refrigerator in a jar filled with water. These methods will keep radishes crunchy and delicious for just over a week. Because radishes are a root vegetable it is important to thoroughly clean them to remove any dirt or sediment. Clean radish greens in a salad spinner or a colander using cool water.

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