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July 1, 2009 > Pat Kite's Garden: Radishes for you - too

Pat Kite's Garden: Radishes for you - too

By Pat Kite

Today Maria gave me five radishes! I was so excited. Nobody has ever given me radishes before. Zucchini, yes. Occasional cucumbers. A selection of excess tomatoes. But ruby red radishes, fresh from the garden, leaves attached, spicy on the palate, now that is a rare gift indeed. Originating in China, radishes have been a cuisine item for eons, but they were also part of long-ago pharmacy and hero worship.

Radishes found in Egyptian tomb paintings dated to about 2000 B.C. The ancient Greeks offered gold carved into radish shapes to Apollo, god of the intellect, arts, and healing. In the 1700s, Europeans ate radishes to ease the common cold, improve digestion, eliminate intestinal worms and as an aid in breaking down kidney stones. According to a physician at the time, "The radice quickeneth the wittes of the senses. It also taketh away blacke and blew markes.... Both in meate and drincke it is good for them that are almost strongled with todstoles." And should one be lacking head hair, "The roote of the Radish stamped with honey and the pouder of a sheepes heart dried, causeth haire to grow in short space."

The most common radish is the small round red one, such as Cherry Bell. But Raphanus sativus can be black, solid red, red and white, yellow, greenish and white. It can be cherry to baseball size, oval or oblong. Expanding to the Oriental radish, the white Japanese Daikon can become several feet long. Fancy radish names abound: Black Soviet, Long Black Spanish, Chinese Green Meat, French Breakfast, Egyptian Spring, German Beer, Long Scarlet Cincinnati, Madras, Purple Olive-Shaped, Pink Beauty and Rat's Tail.

Radishes prefer cool growing weather. Hot weather growth gives them a bitter taste. Create a trench about 2-inches wide in good finely crumpled soil. Cover lightly and firm ground. Make successive plantings every 10 days. Without a current shady cool area, try planting during early fall weather. They sprout quickly.

To make radish "roses" for salad decoration, use a sharp knife to make thin cuts in the red skin, petal fashion, downward almost to the base. Dropping the created radishes into ice water will make the "petals" swell and curl out. When store purchasing, look for fresh green leaves. Refrigerate with leaves on. Leaves turn yellow quickly; so many markets cut the leaves off. Topped radishes dry out quickly, so these should be enclosed in protective packets. Use quickly after opening. However the Daikon radish does have a longer storage time.

Radishes have had special significance even in the musical world. In the 1800s, the famous Italian composer Gioacchino Antonio Rossini did a musical composition entitled "Four Hors d'Oeuvres." The four so honored were anchovies, pickled gherkins, butter and radishes. If you decide upon making garden music with less common radish varieties, check out Seeds of Change on the Internet or call 1-888-762-7333 for information. Have fun. I'm going to eat a fresh gift radish to give my day a slightly spicy start.

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