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Radishes

Radishes are the hot rods of the vegetable world.

That's not just because they're small and red. They're also speedy and hot.

Each planting season, radishes are almost always among the first veggies to be picked. They like cool spring soil. So you can plant their seeds early. They then sprout in just a few days. They reach maturity, ready to be plucked from their beds, in as little as a month.

As anyone who has eaten a radish will tell you, radishes can be quite peppery in taste. Their crisp, sharp hotness has made them one of the most popular garden plants the world around.

Origins

Radishes are believed to have made their start thousands of years ago in western China. That's where many varieties of wild radishes can stil be found.

From China, radishes migrated eastwards to Japan and westwards to Egypt. In Egypt they became a very important crop, partly because of a mistaken belief about them. The ancient Egyptians believed that the heat in radishes' taste made them an especially high energy food. (In truth, that is wrong. Radishes' hotness makes them tasty; but it doesn't fill them with any extra energy.) Because of this mistaken belief, however, when the Egyptian pharaohs built the great pyramids, to get this imagined energy boost, they made radishes a huge part of the workers' diet. They ate radishes with pretty much every meal every day!

From Egypt, radishes made their way to Greece, where the Greeks fell head over heels in love with them — again, because of their crisp, peppery taste. In fact, the ancient Greeks made little gold replicas of radishes to carry around as good luck charms!

With time, radishes eventually made their way up the Mediterranean coast and, by the Middle Ages, into Europe. From there, they came across the Atlantic with the early pilgrims. They have been popular in North America ever since.

Today radishes are Japan's single most popular vegetable. The Japanese eat radishes almost every day. They pickle radishes like we do cucumbers, eating them as an accompaniment to many rice dishes.