Some of the radish family (Brassicaceae) are just so incredibly attractive – the stunning watermelon radish is a case in point. Brilliant colours and a unique pattern. Not every member of the family can manage to astound us with their glamour, some are far more plain and hang in the background. This is the case with the black radish which is really quite ordinary and in stark contrast to its prettier family members.
It is a root vegetable of many names, the spanish radish, the gros noir d’hiver, the noir gros de Paris and the black mooli. What it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in staying power, having been around for a very long time. In ancient Egypt, workers building the pyramids often ate black radishes along with other bulbs. In Europe, it has been grown since Medieval times – offering nutrition in difficult growing conditions throughout the year.
This product grows in all different shapes and sizes depending on its variety. It can be either elongated, similar to a carrot, and these tend to be significantly larger than some of the more common varieties. Or they can be a round, golf ball shape, more like the red radish.
But what about the taste? The flavour packs a big punch with a hot radish bite, and the whole of the product is edible. The skin is piquant and will supply a horseradish-style kick to the palate, or remove the skin to reveal the crisp, creamy white flesh. The flesh is ‘meatier’ than red radish, and the flavour is somewhat milder without the outer layer to deliver its peppery finish. For a more mellow flavour overall, the black radish can be left in storage for a bit – in a dark, cool spot.
You can cook these radishes much like you would a turnip or, like most vegetables, they are tasty roasted in oil and with a sprinkling of salt. They can also be shredded and added to soups, stews or even to give a stir-fry a bit of a kick. They can also be eaten raw – sliced very thinly and let the slices soak in water before serving in a salad. They are well balanced along-side apple with some mint for example.
The black radish also has medicial attributes. History has seen it highly regarded in Europe amongst various folk medicine, and in China for gallbladder health. In India, it has long been utilised as a liver health-promoting tonic. There is also a fraternity who use its juice as part of a cancer treatment and in health supplements.
With such a tough exterior, these hardy radishes can grow all year round and in most conditions. For the best product they are at their peak during the colder, winter months when the wetter conditions are conducive to a crisp, juicier product. During the summer, when the ground is warmed and the soil temperature rise, they tend to become woody and dry.
Remember to look for them over winter to fully enjoy the unusual, ancient radish with much to offer. After all, looks can be deceiving!
Jenny Hobson McGrigor is from Murdoch Produce. Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website murdochproduce.com.au.