Sharp, spicy, colorful & refreshing –  radishes are some of the first spring veggies to pop up in the garden. In fact the latin name for Radish, Raphanus sativus , actually means "quickly appearing".  Radishes are a regular in our little vegetable garden; last year we had to put up chicken wire to keep the rabbits and our labradoodle away from them!  It’s a welcome vegetable on my crudite plate (or ziploc bag as I am known to chop up a whackload of veggies and tote them around with me), the radish brings amazing colour and a unique flavour.

Radishes belong to the Brassica family – which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage – but its closest relatives are turnips and mustard greens.  Radish varietals can be put into two major growing groups- spring and winter.  The winter group includes larger roots like horseradish, daikon and ostergruss; while the spring plants include the smaller brightly colored "easter eggs" and salad radishes.   All vegetables of the Brassica family, including radishes, contain similar sulphur-containing compounds, which are wonderful for that spring detox you have been thinking about! These phytochemicals are known to boost Phase II detoxification pathways in the liver – which are important for neutralizing and removing toxins from the bloodstream. Radishes and other Brassica veggies are certainly part of the prescription for a healthy liver detox!

In addition to the liver, radishes also have an affinity for the health of the lungs. In Chinese Medicine, when the lungs are "unhealthy", heat and phlegm accumulate. The lungs are associated with the Metal element in Chinese medicine; the preferred corresponding climate is cool and dry, the flavour is pungent & spicy, and the colour is white.  The radish fits the bill as an excellent tonic for the Metal element and the lungs – with specifics as a cool & pungent food.  In Traditional Chinese diet therapy, radishes would be prescribed in cases of chronic phlegm (that cough you just can’t kick), sinus congestion, sore throat and nosebleeds – all signs of heat in the respiratory tract. Pungent foods such as the radish are also used to stimulate digestion, and encourage circulation in the periphery of the body   which helps to activate the immune system.  Radishes are also a beneficial food for those with seasonal allergies, as they are rich in Vitamin C and zinc which help to reduce histamine release and balance the immune system. Lastly, some texts say the regular consumption of radishes may help to prevent viral infections like common cold!

All of the nutrients and health benefits from the radish are best obtained when consumed raw – both the roots and the green tops make an excellent addition to salads and coleslaws! If you are a juicer – consider trying some radish as an addition to your favourite combinations for a serious flavour kick!

Perhaps the thing I love most about the easter egg radishes are the beautiful pop of colour they bring to fresh chopped salads, and even as a side dish.  I think we can all agree that after a long, grey winter….a little more colour on our plate is a welcome sign of spring!

Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at bhillnd@gmail.com . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.