The first image that most people conjure up when they hear the word radish is that of a tiny red ball the size of a quarter with a tuft of festive greenery on top. Radishes are cheerful looking, almost comical little vegetables that almost no one takes very seriously.
While we don’t need to get too serious about radishes we might want to be a bit more aware of their potential. After all, radishes are frequently the first edible crop to appear in the garden. They are a sign of the gardener’s first victory over chilly winter soil and a harbinger of greater things to come.
They make great row markers. Gardeners planting parsnips, or salsify and some varieties of carrot have a long wait until these veggies germinate. It can get confusing to determine what is a weed and what a parsnip. But plant a radish at the end of each row and a few in the middle and they will pop up in 4 or 5 days and mark the rows very nicely. By the time the parsnips germinate, the row markers are ready for the table.
Kids love radishes and if you are teaching little ones to be gardener’s there can be no finer first crop to start them with. Children lose interest quickly, but radishes have such a rapid growth cycle that they can easily keep their attention. Also radishes come in many colors and shapes, red, bicolored, black, purple and more. An edible teaching aid, one might say.
And radishes are surprisingly healthful! A brassica or cruciferous vegetable radishes are high in fiber, which is always beneficial. But there is much more. Radishes contain isothiocyanates compounds which do not merely fight cancer, they actively kill cancer cells.
Radishes lower cholesterol, stimulate bile production, counter constipation, fight jaundice, support liver and kidney functions, regulate blood pressure and contain a significant dose of vitamin C.
Radishes; early crop, teaching aid, row marker and health food store all in one tiny plump red veggie. Pick up an extra packet or two of radish seeds; it’s a smart move on many levels.