From the Latin radix, meaning "root," the radish is in fact the root of a plant in the mustard family. Its skin can vary in color from white to red to purple to black (and many shades in between). In shape and size, the radish can be round, oval or elongated and can run the gamut from globes ½ inch in diameter to carrotlike giants (such as the daikon) 1½ feet in length. The most common variety found in American markets is the globular or oval-shaped red-skinned radish, which ranges in size from that of a small cherry to that of a tiny orange. The flavor can be mild to peppery, depending on factors such as variety and age. Available year-round, radishes are sold both trimmed (in plastic bags) and with their greens and roots attached. Choose those that feel firm when gently squeezed. If the radish gives to pressure, the interior will likely be pithy instead of crisp. Any attached leaves should be green and crisp. Remove and discard leaves and refrigerate radishes in a plastic bag for up to 5 days. Wash and trim root ends just before using. For added crispness, soak radishes in icewater for a couple of hours. Though radishes are most often used raw in salads, as garnishes and for crudités, they can also be cooked. Radish sprouts can be used as a peppery accent to salads and as a garnish for a variety of cold and hot dishes. They can be found in specialty produce markets, natural food stores and some supermarkets. See also black radish.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.