< Vegetables



Among the quickest growing of all culinary vegetables, the radish went from seed to table in twenty days. But its speed of maturation also led to toughness and woodiness after a month in the ground, so those gardeners who savored the root as a relish planted successive crops through the season. While the root found most favor among eaters, radish tops, boiled or pickled, had their devotees. The chopped tops mixed with grain also served as a favorite feed for yard fowl. Unfortunately the succulence of the greens had disadvantages, for they attracted a host of insects that preferred them to nearly any other foliage. Cauliflower farmers intercropped radishes so that bugs would eat the radish tops rather than the cauliflower heads.

At the market stall three classifications of radish root predominated: the long, the short-round, and the black. Among gardeners the radish became a fascination, and the nineteenth century saw the development of myriad varieties around the world. Because they were among the earliest of Spring vegetables, they became subject of extensive experiments in forcing, so they can become even earlier. In the 1880s greenhouse culture exploded. The red bodied, white tipped French Breakfast Radish was introduced to American culture in 1865—it remains a favorite traditional variety, though Americans never embraced the Parisian taste for consuming the raw roots with bread for breakfast, the Buckeye Cookery in 1877 suggest a Spring breakfast of Fried ham, potatoes boiled in jackets, radishes, scrambled eggs, fried mush, Graham bread, coffee, tea, and chocolate.

Radish cookery did not become highly developed during the 19th century. The root had an honored place on the relish plate or in an ice-water bath, sliced or whole, salted or vinegared. Under the influence of celebrity chef Pierre Blot, radish carving became a mark of fine cuisine in the 1870s and ‘80s. Radish roses garnished many a platter, and carved radish stars and crescent moons gave visual interest to the salad bowl. The German Black radish enjoyed a vogue as a visual counterpoint in green salads. When cooked, the radish was invariably boiled. The roasted radish of 21st-century restaurant cuisine was not a regular visitant to the early American table. Some, however, did like boiled radishes sauced with melted butter. The radish soups of the orient were unknown in Anglo-America, but in the later 1880s cream of radish soup became a novelty in high end banquets. The pods of the Rat-Tail Radish had been a popular English pickle in the 18th century. This taste carried over the Atlantic, and boiled pods or pickled pods can be found in numerous cookbooks.

1. W.W. Rawson, Success in Market Gardening (Boston: For the Author, 1887), pp. 160-61.

2. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping (Marysville, OH: Buckeye Publishing Co. 1877), p. 299.

Scarlet Turnip White Tip    History

small, round, turnip-shape; small top; bright scarlet with white tip; quick growth; new (as of 1883); mild and crisp.

Early Long Scarlet    History

of lighter color than the above sort, a little larger and a few days later; mild; a standard variety much cultivated.

Early Long Scarlet Short Tip    History

grows 6 to 7 inches long, straight and smooth, small top, crisp and delicious; quick growing.

Wood’s Early Frame    History

similar to the above variety, but shorter and thicker; bright scarlet; mild; excellent for forcing.

French Breakfast White Tip    History

a delicious and beautiful sort for table decoration; medium sized, olive shaped; small top; quick growing and brilliant scarlet with white tip. Very crisp and tender.

Golden Globe    History

golden color skin, very popular in the South; succeeds in hottest climates.

Long White Naples    History

Long, slender; skin white and fine; tender; a late Fall variety.

Olive Scarlet    History

olive shaped, early, tender.

Olive Rose    History

similar to the Olive Scarlet except for its rose color; tender and mild.

Olive White    History

Like Olive Scarlet except in color.

Olive Gray    History

Similar to preceding, except in color. The olive shaped varieties are claimed to be earlier, more tender, and less liable to be worm-eaten than the long sorts.

Scarlet, White, & Yellow Turnip varieties    History

mild, pleasant, turnip-shaped.

Large White Russian    History

among the largest of radishes; for winter use, sow last of July; skin is white, Smooth and tender; flesh delicate and finely flavored.

Black Spanish Long    History

For Winter or Summer use; 1 ½ inch through, and 6 to 8 inches long. Black skin, white flesh, of firm texture, dark green leaves; one of the hardiest.

Black Spanish Round    History

similar to above except in form.

White Spanish    History

Resembles the Black Spanish Long; is often 3 inches in diameter at fullest part; skin white, wrinkled, sometimes tinged with purple by sunlight; milder than the Black Spanish.

California Mammoth White    History

Introduced from China; pure white; a foot long; 2 to 3 inches through at top, tapering to a point; flesh tender and crisp, keeps well through winter.

Chinese White Winter    History

Similar to above except in color. Fine grain.

Covent Garden Special Long Scarlet    History

mild and brittle; of superior quality.

Raphanus Candatus    History

Japan Radish, a novelty; seed pods 2 feet long, though not recommended as valuable.

Radishes (Common Sense in the Kitchen 1884)    History

A little while before using, lay them upon ice, or put them in cold water. To prepare them for the table, cut off the leaves; then scrape th em, and put them in a tumbler with ice-water. Serve with salt, or pepper and vinegar.

Salad of Radish-Pods (Salads and Sauces 1884)    History

Gather a dozen pods of the rat-tail radish when they are half-grown; cut them slant-wise and soak them in strong salt water half an hour; drain. Put into a salad-bowl four boiled potatoes sliced; add the radish-pods; chop up one shallot clove with one pickle and a few capers together, strew over the salad; over all pour a plain salad-dressing.

Black Radish Salad (Salads and Sauces 1884)    History

Scrape the skin off three black radishes; cut them in slices; put the into a salad-bowl and add one sliced cucumber; pour over the dish a plain dressing; add a few capers and a teaspoonful of chopped herbs.

Boiled Radishes (Salads and Sauces 1884)    History

Radishes are generally eaten raw, but boiled radishes are not to be despised; boil them fifteen minutes, drain, and serve hot with melted butter or serve cold with sauce vinaigrette.

To Pickle Radish Pods (Virginia Housewife 1838)    History

Cut them in nice bunches as soon as they are fully formed; they must be young and tender—pour boiling salt and water on them, cover with a thick cloth, and pewter plate, to keep in the steam; repeat this every day till they are a good green; then put them in cold vinegar, with mace and whole pepper; mix a little turmeric, with a small portion of oil, and stir it into the vinegar; it will make the pods of a more lively green. They are very pretty for garnishing meats.

Pickled Radish Pods (Creole Cookery Book 1885)    History

Put the pods, which must be gather when very young, into salt and water all night; boil the salt and water they were laid in; pour it upon the pods, and cover the jar close, to keep in the steam; when it is nearly cold, pour it on again, and continue to do so till the pods are green; then drain them on a sieve and make a pickle for them of white vinegar, mace, black pepper and horse radish; pour it boiling hot upon the pods; tie them down, and put them away for use.

Pickled French Beans and Radish Pods (American Housewife 1848)    History

Gather them while quite small and tender. Keep them in salt and water, till you get through collecting them—changing the water as often as once in four or five days. Then scald them with hot salt and water, let them lie in it till cook, then turn on hot vinegar spiced with peppercorns, mace and allspice. The radish top, if pickled in small bunches, are a pretty garnish for other pickles.