“The first gathering in the garden of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby — how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.”

— Alice B. Toklas

One of the most robust and readily available local crops right now is radishes. They grow prolifically, quickly progressing from seed to maturity in 30-45 days. A member of the mustard family, radishes  possess a peppery flavor profile that make them quite well suited to a number of preparations.

Cultivated for thousands of years, radishes were first grown in China, as well as in ancient Egypt and Greece. Radishes were so highly revered by the Greeks, that  they produced gold replicas to offer up to their god Apollo. And in ancient Egypt, radishes were used as currency to pay the laborers who toiled away constructing the great Pyramids.

The radish has even played a starring role in literature, when in Gone with the Wind, a starving Scarlett O’Hara clutches a radish ripped from the nearly barren ground, and declares, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

While those ancient Greeks preferred to serve up their radishes with honey and vinegar, today’s conscious cooks enjoy this crisp, exceptionally low-calorie, low-fat vegetable in a variety of savory summer dishes. With a 95 percent water content, radishes are naturally cooling and wonderfully hydrating , a perfect antidote to a sultry day.

Radishes can be a natural cleansing agent for the digestive system, helping to break up stagnant food and toxins; their high vitamin C content also offers natural cleansing effects. Radishes may provide a calming effect on the digestive system, relieving bloating and indigestion. With a plethora of phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals, radishes may also help ward off cancerous cells.

Enjoy the healthy benefits of radishes by preparing perfect snacks such as freshly picked or purchased radishes smeared with a bit of good unsalted butter and sprinkled with sea salt.  Whole radishes can assume a place of honor on any fresh vegetable tray, their cherry-red roundness adding bright color and captivating crunch. Radishes pair quite nicely with rosé wine, a summer favorite, and offering this combo to dinner guests will stimulate gastric juices without denting the appetite. Finely chop radishes and mix with light cream cheese or goat cheese for a spread with a bit of spark.  A tea sandwich of high quality dark or whole-grain bread spread with boursin cheese and layered with thinly sliced radish and soft butter lettuce will be welcomed at any baby or bridal shower this June.

Enjoy the robust and ravishing radish as you prepare your delicious life.

Riviera Radishes

Makes 20 pieces.

10 slices prosciutto

20 radishes (if you can find French Breakfast radishes, use those)

extra-virgin olive oil

red wine vinegar

freshly cracked black pepper

Wrap 1/2 slice of prosciutto around each radish. Lay on a serving platter and drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com