Adventures in Cooking


By Majida Rashid

Many times during Pakistani winters, my mother would go out just to buy radishes. After her return she would sit on a foot-high narrow stool called a chowki, place a round and deep silver tray in front of her on the veranda and empty the bag in it. Then she would sort the radishes by their size, wash and scrape the skin off, wash them again and prop them up against something to drain the water. Next she would carry a cot to the courtyard and place it in bright sunlight. After that she would put the smallest radishes with long slender green stems, leaves still attached, in a shallow basket and carry it in one hand and a knife, its silver blade reflecting the sunlight, in the other. Mother always sat on the cot with her back to the sun, covering her head with a shawl to protect it from the heat. At the time of slicing the radishes, she would invariably say, “Ah, they are so fresh. Look at the greenish hue near the top.”

Mother snacked on them as if she had nothing else to do. She would also share her bounty with female relatives if they happened to visit. The aunties would reminisce about the time Mother took them to various places to buy radishes and how the vegetables were so sweet and juicy... I remember wondering how it was that they could talk about such pungent vegetables as if they were long gone friends. I vowed I would never like radishes.

When as an adult I went shopping for vegetables the white radishes stood out amongst all the others. They seemed to be beckoning me, but I remembered my childhood distaste for them and resisted the temptation time and time again.

Alas, as they say, with passing of time promises are forgotten. When I visited an Asian market for the first time, I was mesmerized by radishes from Korea, China, Vietnam and Japan. I completely forgot my vow and only remembered my mother’s lesson that a greenish color indicated freshness. So I quickly bought five or six white ones with plenty of green color and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into them. At home I replicated Mother’s ritual and took my first bite. Hot peppery air whizzed up my nostrils, ears and even my head. I felt steam coming out of my hair. Brain freeze or an ice-cream headache is nothing compared to that. It took me a while to get out of that vortex of pungency! For ages I was certain that the culprit was the hidden ingredient in wasabi and the secret food police of the Far East have duped us into thinking otherwise.

I must tell ya’ll, for I now live in Texas, that I’m a little scared of radishes but I neither scream nor run away at their sight like I once did as a child after taking my first bite.

What I had not realized was that I cannot forsake radishes. This column is to honor the memory of my mother who had brainwashed me about their goodness. These low-calorie mini mines of fiber, vitamins, electrolytes and minerals like potassium and magnesium, are known for helping with digestion, cleansing liver and clearing facial acne, if eaten regularly.

Now I use their leaves in smoothies and drink their juice because it’s a great pick-me up and imparts energy over time. Due to their strong odor, juicing radishes is not for the faint of heart. Windows should be kept open during juicing. Letting the fresh juice sit for a while before drinking somehow takes away the pungency. The juice tastes fresh for a few days if stored in a glass jar and refrigerated.

It’s good to gradually introduce radishes into one’s diet. Raffinose, the sugar found in cabbage and Brussel sprouts, is also contained in radishes. It can cause gas or bloating in the beginning but the body gets used to it over time. A couple of red round radishes eaten along with a meal would be ideal to start with. Slowly, one can graduate to the stronger variety. Mother used to say, “Don’t drink water after eating radishes because it causes heaviness.”

Ubiquitous small red radishes with a circumference of an inch are known as table radishes in America. But the long white radishes with tapered ends go by their Japanese name daikon – big root. Show a daikon to a non-Japanese who wasn’t born in America and they will say, “It’s a radish.”

Radishes can be white, green or any combination of these two colors and sometimes dark purple. They can grow from nine to eighteen inches in length and several inches in diameter.

Roasted Radishes
Roasted radishes are neutral in taste so they pick up flavors of other ingredients rather well. Here is something to cook when in a hurry.

1 teaspoon olive oil
¼- ½ teaspoon red crushed pepper
2 cups of bite-sized pieces of red and white radishes
¼ teaspoon each of crushed cumin and coriander seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
¼ teaspoon salt and turmeric powder (optional)
1-2 tablespoons nutritionist yeast

Pre-heat oven to 400ºF. Mix the first five ingredients and salt if using and spread on a tray lined with oiled foil. Roast for 15- 20 minutes. Put in a serving dish, sprinkle with the yeast and serve.
Makes 1-2 servings.
Majida Rashid’s blog can be found at