Radishes are not just for salads, platter garnishes, and party carvings (as used in the Mexican winter festival, Night of the Radishes). In fact, whether raw, pickled, marinated, or juiced, radishes are a fantastic cleansing food, especially for the gallbladder. Radishes contain a variety of sulfur-based chemicals that increase the flow of bile and help cleanse stones and bile built up in the gallbladder. The gallbladder, in turn, helps support liver function, and a healthy liver purifies the blood, burns fat, and disposes of toxins from processed foods, medicines, alcoholic beverages, and environmental pollutants.
Historically, radishes have been used as a medicinal food for liver disorders and to prevent constipation. Their ability to help digest fat may be the real reason behind the French paradox (radishes are eaten in France for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). In fact, in the 18th century, radishes were viewed as “great relievers of the common cold, powerful fortifiers of digestion, and useful in breaking down kidney stones,” as stated in William Woys Weaver’s book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From.
Author Paul Pitchford in Healing With Whole Foods – Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, cites how the cooling yet pungent radish is viewed from the perspective of Eastern Medicine. Radishes are powerful detoxifiers that reduce inflammation, decrease mucus, and can help remove deposits and stones from the gallbladder. In addition, their high potassium content supports cardiovascular health.
The Ayurvedic energetics of radishes, according to Ayurvedic Practitioner and Natural Epicurean Chef Instructor Charlotte Jernigan, supports cleansing—especially in the spring, since they reduce built-up toxins (ama) in the body, as well as excess of the heavy, earthy kapha dosha. Radishes are both pungent and heating and the lightness and dryness of this vegetable supports clearing out accumulations “such as winter doldrums, excess weight, congestion, or phlegm.” Jernigan points out that they are easy to grow, even in a small space, with full sun and cool temperatures and they are ready for harvest merely 30 days after planting.
Grown in Egypt since at least 2780 BC, radishes have been cultivated in many shapes and sizes. While we tend to think of them as round red globes, they actually vary in color from white, red, pink, and even green – such as the watermelon radish (green on the outside and fuchsia on the inside). They may also be shaped similar to a carrot, which is true of the pink and white icicle radish, and in the case of the daikon, can grow up to 18 inches long. Long, black Spanish varieties can be challenging to find but have the strongest cleansing properties and so are worth seeking.
As a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, the peppery greens of the radish, can also be eaten. After rinsing well, they are a peppery substitute or accompaniment for arugula; cooked quickly, they are a spicy leafy green which is a delicious alternative to spinach. Both the radish roots and greens are excellent sources of Vitamin C (with the leaves contain almost six times the Vitamin C content of the root). As a cruciferous vegetable, radishes are cancer-fighting, anti-fungal, and antibacterial.
For variety, consider juicing them or crunching on a few between meals. To soften their pungent taste, radishes may be pickled in vinegar, marinated in lemon juice and olive oil, or grilled or roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
Try them in this salad with fat-flushing apple cider vinegar and inflammation-fighting flaxseed oil, balanced by the sweetness of oranges and fortified with easy digestibility of sprouts.
Red Jen Ford is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Yoga Instructor, and Seasonal Eating Expert. Jen teaches the benefits and simplicity of eating local, sustainably-grown food. Enjoy more of her dishes in her seasonal recipe booklets or online course, Simply in Season – Fall Recipes to Celebrate Healthy, Easy Seasonal Food. Redjenford.com