Raphanus sativus: Radish

Family: Brassicaceae
Common name: Radish, Daikon, Mooli

A very beautiful and hardy vegetable, Radish can grow and flourish in kitchen gardens very well. The plants grow to a height of about half a meter, with broad green leaves that vary in size depending on the type of radish. It’s mostly grown for the underground, bulbous taproot, that’s eaten raw or cooked.

Radishes are sweet and crunchy when they are young, but can have a bitter flavor once they ripen. The plant produces small white flowers on maturity, which later turn into small, green, pod-like fruits bearing seeds.

Flowers have both male and female reproductive organs, and are fertilized by bees, insects and ants. The leaves and fruits are edible when young, and are used extensively in Indian cooking; in salads, soups, savory dishes and snacks.

Radish leaves are arranged in beautiful rosettes on the ground, with white or purple colored radishes peeking out from underneath the plant. This makes it easy to find out when the vegetable is mature enough to pluck. One has to be careful while digging out the vegetables, since it might break if you pull on the roots too hard.

The most commonly found radish in India is the Daikin, or mooli which can grow more than a foot long. Radishes vary in shape from globular to cylindrical to tapering; and come in a variety of colors like white, pink, red, yellow and gray. Though most radishes are grown for their edible roots, some are grown for ground cover, fodder, leaves or seeds. The seeds can also be sprouted and cooked.

There are many subspecies of radishes, like caudatus, sativus, niger, oleiformis, raphanistroides etc. depending on the type of vegetable. They are mainly classified into spring or summer radishes; and winter radishes. There are some popular cultivars like Snow Belle, Plum Purple, April Cross, Easter Egg, French Breakfast, Black Spanish etc. depending on the characteristics of the plant.

Since radishes grow very fast, and can be harvested in 3-4 weeks, they are quite popular in kitchen gardens. After planting, make sure that the seedlings have enough space to grown downwards, and are not crowded. Well-drained porous soil, good sunlight, regular watering and fertilization can give you a good crop of radishes.

Radish seeds are used to extract radish seed oil which is used as a biofuel. Radishes have some medicinal uses, in treatment of indigestion, worm infections, asthma, bronchitis, burns and bruises.

Propagation is through seeds.

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