botanical name: Raphanus sativus major
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The radish is rather well known with the name of "winter radish", but it is still not very widespread in Italy: in fact, the Mediterranean diet doesn't include a frequent use of this particular root, although in recent times its use in cooking is widening. It belongs to the same family of radishes, with which it shares some physical characteristics; at the same time it's very resistant to cold and low temperatures. It's from this characteristic that the species derives its nickname.
Unlike radishes, can be cultivated in the garden or on the balcony in winter and autumn, it has a more spicy and intense flavor and its color can vary from white to black. Sensitive to drought, radish includes eight different species, native to the Mediterranean, Europe and Central Asia.
It tolerates low and high temperatures, then it can be cultivated all year round. Depending on the variety it's perennial, biennial or annual, although it generally tends to the second type of growth. The cultivation takes place for the swollen roots, 30 centimeters long and of diameter varying between 2 and 10 centimeters, they shall contain a spicy oil, responsible for the pungent taste of radish.
The vegetable is characterized by the lobed leaves or in the form of a pen and to reach a maximum height of one meter, although in Italy in general the specimens don't exceed 40 centimeters. Flowers can be purple, white or pale yellow, and the fruit breaks when ripe.
Origins and history
The winter radish is native to the area from China and Japan. Britain was one of the first if not the first Western nation to import the radish seeds, giving rise to an interest as to extend the crops as far south as the British soil.
Nutritional properties and benefits
The winter radish is a vegetable rich in nutrients: in fact, it has high levels of mineral salts (especially magnesium and phosphorus) and vitamin C. For this reason and for the fact that it can be kept for a long time, it has been used for centuries as a remedy against scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamins and fresh food and mainly affecting ships' crews.
In addition, the winter radish is a plant with stimulating, diuretic and cleansing capacity as it acts on the liver, favoring the production of bile. Finally, it's an excellent expectorant.
The use of winter radish in cooking
The radish roots are harvested about a month after planting, then when the vegetables have reached such dimensions that they can be sold and consumed. Unlike what most people believe, it's better not to procrastinate too much the collection, because it is possible to affect the taste of the flesh. Typically this vegetable is used grated, raw in combination with other vegetables or preserved in vinegar, for example are very popular salads that combine the roots of winter radish cut into thin slices.
Just as with the spinach, the leaves of this vegetable are used after they were deprived of the rib and petioles: you consume seasoned with olive oil, butter, grated Parmesan or other cheese types.
We recommend pairing with other raw seasonal vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, onion and cauliflower. From the health point of view, the winter radish is used as a base ingredient for juices and syrups by which we make the most of purifying and diuretic. To prepare the syrup of winter radish, for example, you cut a black winter radish into thin slices and put it to ferment for 24 hours in a tightly closed jar concomitantly with 3-4 tablespoons of honey, brown sugar, or malt.
Few people know that the winter radish has a mitigating effect on freckles: is necessary to cut the roots into thin slices, cover with salt and leave to rest for a few hours. In this way you get a juice used as a home remedy to lighten freckles; It works effectively also with all types of skin dark spots. Alternatively, the radish juice is used in traditional medicine as a remedy for coughs.
Generally the roots have an elongated shape, but there are varieties that have a rounded appearance. Tuscany stands out among radishes real and roots: the first are consumed with the tuna, the latter with boiled.