Radishes were celebrated by Dioscorides and Pliny as above all roots whatsoever, insomuch, that in the Delphic temple there was a Radish of solid gold, raphanus ex auro dicatus: and Moschinus wrote a whole volume in their praise; but Hippocrates condemned them as vitiosas, innatantes, acoegre concoctiles.
The common garden Radish (Raphanus sativus) is a Cruciferous plant, and a cultivated variety of the Horse Radish. It came originally from China, but has been grown allover Europe from time immemorial. Radishes were celebrated by Dioscorides and Pliny as above all roots whatsoever, insomuch, that in the Delphic temple there was a Radish of solid gold, raphanus ex auro dicatus: and Moschinus wrote a whole volume in their praise; but Hippocrates condemned them as vitiosas, innatantes, acoegre concoctiles.
Among the oblations offered to Apollo in his temple at Delphi, turnips were dedicated in lead, beet in silver, and radishes in wrought gold. The wild Radish is Raphanus raphanistrum. The garden Radish was not grown in England before 1548.
Later on John Evelyn wrote in his Acetaria: "And indeed (besides that they decay the teeth) experience tells us that, as the Prince of Physicians writes, it is hard of digestion, inimicous to the stomach, causing nauseous eructations, and sometimes vomiting, though otherwise diuretic, and thought to repel the vapours of wine when the wits were at their genial club." "The Radish," says Gerard, "provoketh urine, and dissolveth cluttered sand."
The roots, which are the edible part, consist of a watery fibrous pulp, which is comparatively bland, and of an external skin furnished with a pungent volatile aromatic oil which acts as a condiment to the phlegmatic pulp. "Radishes are eaten with salt alone as carrying their pepper in them." The oil contained in the roots, and likewise in the seeds, is sulphuretted, and disagrees with persons of weak digestion. A young Radish, which is quickly grown and tender, will suit most stomachs, especially if some of the leaves are masticated together with the root; but a Radish which is tough, strong, and hollow, "fait penser à l'ile d'Elbe: il revient."
The pulp is chemically composed chiefly of nitrogenous substance, being fibrous and tough unless when the roots are young and quickly grown. On this account they should not be eaten when at all old and hard by persons of slow digestion, because apt to lodge in the intestines, and to become entangled in their caecal pouch, or in its appendix. But boiled Radishes are almost equal to asparagus when served at table, provided they have been cooked long enough to become tender, that is, for almost an hour. The syrup of radishes is excellent for hoarseness, bronchial difficulty of breathing, whooping cough, and other complaints of the chest.
For the cure of corns, if after the feet have been bathed, and the corns cut, a drop or two of juice be squeezed over the corn from the fresh pulp of a radish on several consecutive days, this will wither and disappear. Also Radish roots sliced when fresh, and applied to a carbuncle will promote its healing. An old Saxon remedy against a woman's chatter was to "taste at night a root of Radish when fasting, and the chatter will not be able to harm him." In some places the Radish is called Rabone.
From the fresh plant, choosing a large Spanish Radish, with a turnip-shaped root, and a black outer skin, and collected in the autumn, a medicinal tincture (H.) is made with spirit of wine. This tincture has proved beneficial in cases of bilious diarrhoea, with eructations, and mental depression, when a chronic cough is also liable to be present. Four or five drops should be given with a tablespoonful of cold water, twice or three times in the day. The Black Radish is found useful against whooping cough, and is employed for this purpose in Germany, by cutting off the top, and then making a hole in the root. This is filled with treacle, or honey, and allowed to stand for a day or two; then a teaspoonful of the medicinal liquid is given two or three times in the day. Roman physicians advised that Radishes should be eaten raw, with bread and salt in the morning before any other food. And our poet Thomson describes as an evening repast:--
"A Roman meal Such as the mistress of the world once found Delicious, when her patriots of high note, Perhaps by moonlight at their humble doors, Under an ancient Oak's domestic shade, Enjoy'd spare feast, a RADISH AND AN EGG."