Farmers Market Fresh: Radishes

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Saturdays are my favorite. Not only am I off work, get to spend the day with my honey and sleep in (if you call waking up at 6:30 am sleeping in), it is also my regular day to visit the Noe Valley Farmer's Market. I love meandering around the different stands and checking out what's fresh and in season. Many times the farmers have just cut, clipped, pulled or plucked their produce that very morning. Shopping at the farmer's market  makes me feel certainly more connected to my community but it also helps me bring more variety into my cooking. Sometimes I come across a random vegetable or fruit I've never seen or heard of and I can count on the farmers to share their knowledge of it and many times their favorite recipes on how to prepare it. I also like to ask them if you can use the whole food (i.e., the roots, leaves, seeds, etc.). 

Yesterday's market was abundant with beautiful spring veggies but what really caught my eye were all the beautiful radishes. Now, the radish isn't exactly an exotic vegetable... but I did learn some fun new facts about these ruby roots.

For starters, the leaves of the radish plant are actually up to six times more nutritious than their tubers! You don't have to do anything fancy with the greens. You can add them to a salad or eat them solo, either way serving them raw is what preserves its high nutrient content. If the greens are too bitter for you, try making a nice vinaigrette made from tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), sherry, toasted sesame oil, and honey. Deeelish!

That is not to say eating the crunchy bulbs are not healthy one their own. Radishes are an excellent sources of vitamin C and Calcium. In specific, the red round variety (called "Red Globes") are high in an important trace mineral called Molybdenum and a good source of Folic Acid and Potassium. Radishes are a member of the cruciferous veggie family and share the same cancer-protective actions of other cruciferous plants (cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts). Historically, radishes were used medicinally for liver disorders. Because of their high sulfur based qualities, eating radishes promote  an increase in the flow of bile which helps maintain a healthy gallbladder and liver and improves digestion. Radish roots and greens are commonly eaten in other countries to also prevent Vitamin C deficiency, as a diuretic (helping you get rid of excess retained water in your body), as an expectorant (helping loosen phlegm and excess mucus in the body), to treat gastric discomfort and in some cases as a laxative (you'd have to eat a few for that to happen though).  And as an added bonus, all varieties of radishes are low in calories providing only 16 calories per 3 1/2 ounce serving (much of which is fiber). Just as with the greens, remember that the nutrient content in radishes are heat sensitive so its best to keep them raw. 

Some quick serving ideas for radish roots include a Cucumber and Radish Salad dressed with the same vinaigrette described above. Or, try tossing some sliced radish roots with naval orange segments, a little honey and lemon juice and let marinate for about 30 minutes before serving. And of course, the easiest way to prepare and serve radishes (whole or sliced) is to serve with other veggies on a crudite platter. Consider gathering a few different varieties to showcase all the different colors and shapes.