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Crop of the Week: Radishes
• Radishes are grown in the Yuma area as part of the winter vegetable production programs. As many area gardeners know, radishes are known to tolerate many soil and environmental conditions and can reach maturity in as little as 20 days from seed.
• Radishes were first cultivated thousands of years ago in China, then in Egypt and Greece. Ancient Egyptians used radish seed oil before olive oil was known. Radishes were so highly regarded in Greece that gold replicas were made. The radish did not make its way to England until approximately 1548. They were being cultivated in Massachusetts by 1629 and later distributed throughout the Americas.
• Radishes are root vegetables that resemble beets or turnips in appearance and texture but have a distinct flavor. It is the root of a plant classified in the mustard family.
• Radishes that taste hot are due primarily to soils that are either too dry or too hot, above 90 degrees.
• Americans eat 400 million pounds of radishes each year, most of which is consumed in salads.
• The most popular variety radish in the United States and is the familiar looking red and white one, small, round or oval shaped, sometimes referred to as “button” red radishes.
• The daikon is a variety of radish also known as Japanese radish, Chinese radish and Satsuma radish. They are white with a milder flavor than the small red radish and can grow up to 3 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds.
• Radishes are available year-round. Choose medium-size that are firm, rounded and of good color. Larger radishes tend to be pithy. Check for spongy feeling. Do not buy radishes with yellow or decayed tops. Remove and discard leaves and refrigerate radishes in a plastic bag for up to five days. Wash and trim root ends just before using. For added crispness, soak radishes in ice water for a couple of hours.
• Radish leaves can be added to salads or stir-fried vegetables to add a little zest to the flavor. The leaves are not as spicy as radish roots. The seeds of radishes grow in pods. They are edible and make a great, spicy, crunchy addition to salads.
• The radish is usually eaten raw and often put into salads. However, radishes can also be used in soups.
• They are high in vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. These vitamins and minerals are good for healing cuts and bruises, keeping your memory sharp and for maintaining fluid balance in your body.
• Radishes have also been used to treat coughs, liver problems and arthritis.
• Wild ancestors of the radish have been found all over Europe and Asia.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.