• Ann Taylor

Radish roots and leaves: a simple to grow simply wonderful salad vegetable

I harvested these beaut red radishes from the Binnowee Community Garden this morning with their fresh leaves, which motivated me to share how beneficial for health both root and leaves are. Great benefits from such an easy and quick to grow crop, with arguably more mineral and vitamin nutrition in the leaves than the root.

You can Google for information about the composition, and will find reported much higher levels of valuable minerals and vitamins in the leaves, which most people discard, than the roots, which is what appears in our salads. For example, the leaves have much high levels of iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium and vitamins A, the various B vitamins including B6 and folate (B9), vitamin C and antioxidant CoQ10. Moreover radishes – in their roots and/or leaves – also provide diverse health supporting phytochemicals including

  • phenolic compounds with antioxidant properties that help repair free radical damage;

  • anti-inflammatory flavonoids like anthocyanin in the red and purple coloured root varieties, and which help prevent inflammation that can cause adverse outcomes including obesity and diabetes;

  • sulphur containing compounds, glucosinolates, which produce the mustard oils that give radishes (and related plants) their pungency, isothiocyanates, with antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic properties, and indole-3-carbinol, which is considered one of the most powerful anticarcinogenic sulphur containing compounds.

Other reported health benefits include:

  • helping to regulate blood sugar levels and hence reduce risk of diabetes and supporting weight loss

  • enhancing liver function, cleansing blood, detoxifying and helping to decrease cholesterol levels in liver, which can help prevent gallstones forming

  • cleansing blood also supports improved cardiovascular health, as does the high levels of minerals and nitrates that help to reduce high blood pressure (antihypertensive effects)

  • enhancing immunity and alleviating anemia and fatigue with iron and phosphorus content.

People who are iodine deficient and have thyroid issues may be wary of radishes and other cruciferous vegetables on account of goitrogens that may interfere with the thyroid gland’s uptake of iodine. Iodine deficiency can potentially lead to enlargement of the thyroid gland (a goiter). Considering underlying causes of iodine deficiency is another topic. Meanwhile eat cruciferous vegetables in moderation and preferably cooked as cooking significantly lowers goitrogen content.

Another caution is for people intolerant of high levels of salicylates, radishes being one of the very high salicylate plant foods. Many nutritious plant foods are. The challenge is to investigate the underlying causes and endeavor to resolve or moderate the intolerance to enable a much greater variety of foods to be eaten for health and enjoyment, rather than follow a pattern of ever diminishing food choices. Again, another – and rather more complex – topic.

I like to have radishes at hand year round for adding to salads and sandwiches and snacking on, and will myself now use the leaves whenever I can harvest fresh or buy with fresh, healthy looking leaves attached. I plan to sauté the leaves with garlic for my dinner tonight, and another time soon try out this pickled radish recipe.

Keeping your own backyard supply of radishes growing is one of the easiest home grown food projects. We’ll be sowing more radish seed at Binnowee this week