Radishes have been a common vegetable in Europe since the sixteenth century although their exact origin is unknown. They were first a favorite vegetable in French cuisine and then over time became popular throughout Europe. Today, radishes are particularly well known for their characteristic sharp, pungent flavor.
From Wikipedia: “The radish (Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family that was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. Radishes are grown and consumed throughout the world, being mostly eaten raw as a crunchy salad vegetable. They have numerous varieties, varying in size, flavor, color, and length of time they take to mature.”
“The most commonly eaten portion is the napiform taproot, although the entire plant is edible and the tops can be used as a leaf vegetable. The seed can also be sprouted and eaten raw in a similar way to a mung bean.
The bulb of the radish is usually eaten raw, although tougher specimens can be steamed. The raw flesh has a crisp texture and a pungent, peppery flavor, caused by glucosinolates and the Enzyme myrosinase, which combine when chewed to form allyl isothiocyanates, also present in mustard, horseradish, and wasabi.
Radishes are mostly used in salads, but also appear in many European dishes. Radish leaves are sometimes used in recipes, like potato soup or as a sauteed side dish. They are also found blended with fruit juices in some recipes.”
“The seeds of radishes can be pressed to extract radish seed oil. Wild radish seeds contain up to 48% oil, and while not suitable for human consumption, this oil is a potential source of biofuel. The daikon grows well in cool climates and, apart from its industrial use, can be used as a cover crop, grown to increase soil fertility, to scavenge nutrients, suppress weeds, help alleviate soil compaction, and prevent winter erosion of the soil.”
“Radishes consist of up to 90 % or more water, 2 % carbohydrates, and less than 2 % fiber and protein. They contain less than 0.1 % fat and between 34 and 35 % calcium. Radishes are also a source of vitamins A and C as well as B1, B2, and B6 and they contain several minerals, including potassium, phosphorous, sodium, flouride, magnesium, iron, niacin, and salicylic acid.*”
“Radishes owe their sharp flavor to the various chemical compounds produced by the plants, including glucosinolate, myrosinase, and isothiocyanate.”
“The daikon varieties of radish are important parts of East, Southeast, and South Asian cuisine. In Japan and Korea, radish dolls are sometimes made as children's toys. Daikon is also one of the plants that make up the Japanese Festival of Seven Herbs (Nanakusa no sekku) on the seventh day after the new year.
Citizens of Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrate the Night of the Radishes(Noche de los rábanos) on December 23 as a part of Christmas celebrations. This folk art competition uses a large type of radish up to 50 cm (20 in) long and weighing up to 3 kg (6.6 lb). Great skill and ingenuity are used to carve these into religious and popular figures, buildings, and other objects, and they are displayed in the town square.”
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry