Valley Bounty: Radishes
The peppery, slightly-pungent flavor most of us associate with brightly-colored spring radishes is provided by a compound called allyl isothiocyanate, which is also found in other similarly-flavored members of the Brassicaceae family like mustard, horseradish, and wasabi. This compound is not actually present in the radish itself (that would damage the plant); instead, it’s harmless components glucosinolate and the enzyme myrosinase are stored separately and only combine in the mouth of what or whoever happens to be eating it. The evolutionary purpose of this trait is likely to deter animal predators, whose preferred range of flavors are likely a bit narrower than your average farmers’ market shopper. And as an added bonus, some research has suggested allyl isothiocyanate may contribute to cancer prevention.
Spring radishes tend to be smaller and more tender than their heartier winter counterparts. I almost always eat them raw, since cooking them tends to mute their otherwise vibrant flavors. Thinly sliced fresh radishes add an interesting flavor element to soups and salads. Radishes served with butter and salt are a classic French snack, or you could switch things up and swap out the butter for avocado.
Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)