Botanically, the radish is called Raphanus sativus and it is part of the mustard family. The leaves grow to between 1 and 2 feet tall. Though the most common radishes found in North America have the smaller round, red roots, the size and shape is dependant upon the variety. The leaves, flowers and the roots are all edible.
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Stem and Leaves
The stems are oval and tend to have a bristly texture. The leaves have an irregular shape, a rough texture, toothed edges and tend to be a medium green in color. They are edible with a strong peppery taste. Radish leaves are sometimes used as a garnish in salads and on sandwiches. They can also be cooked and eaten in the same fashion as mustard greens or even spinach. The leaves of the Japanese Daikon, which form denser crowns up to 2 feet wide, are often stir-fried.
Flowers usually appear during the first growing season. White, yellow, pink or violet veined flowers appear on the long stalks of the radish. The flowers typically have four petals and they tend to appear in clusters. Once pollinated, the seeds form inside a pod like structure called the silicle. When the seeds mature, the pod dries up and breaks off, protecting the seeds. Like the rest of the plant, the flowers are edible and are typically used in salads.
Globe shaped radishes tend to be red and include varieties such as the Fireball and Red Prince. Oblong shaped radishes, which can be red or white or a marbling of the two include the Red Baron and the French Breakfast, which is all red with a splash of white at the tip. The latter can grow to be 3 inches long. The White Icicle is also an oblong variety. It is all white and grows up to 6 inches long. Some radishes are shaped more like carrots, long and tapered. The Hybrid Long and Long White are either red or white and can grow to be 13 to 15 inches long. The Daikon is a long white radish used in Oriental cooking. Depending on the variety, the roots grow to be 2 to 4 inches wide and between 10 and 14 inches long.