We featured a story on radishes in the spring as they are one of the first veggies to pop up in our local gardens – but this week Fresh City Farms is bringing you a "fall" radish that is seasonal, local and unique. The Ostergruss radish may be unusual here in Ontario, but it is the usual in its native Germany. Otherwise known as "blue autumn" in Germany, it is typically harvested this time of year and stores well over the winter. It is a varietal of the common Radish plant – Raphinus sativus, with a root that is longer like a carrot and a milder peppery taste than others.  Its bright pink colour and refreshing crunch will make it a welcome addition to fall salads, however, this radish can be prepared in many other ways (steamed, braised, sautéed) that showcase its beautiful colour, flavour, and health benefits.

Radishes belong to the Brassica family – which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage –its closest relatives are turnips and mustard greens.  All vegetables of the Brassica family contain similar sulphur-containing compounds. 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, all 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.  All 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 – I would say these are a great veggie to eat this time of year considering all of the coughs and sniffles going around.

For those of you who have not totally acquired the spicy bitter taste of radishes (myself included) – give the ostergruss a try – it is much gentler on the palate (especially when cooked) but not short on nutrition. I am going to be preparing mine in a traditional "European" way – braising them with some other local root vegetables. Try yours lightly steamed, and then sautéed in a little coconut oil and broth for a healthy side-dish that gives your immune system a serious boost!

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.