A radish is the root of a plant in the mustard family. When we say radish we usually think of those bite-size bright pinkish-red balls with white interiors that possess a peppery crunchiness. They are often used as decoration on crudité trays and buffets.
But an Asian radish can be an all-white elongated cylinder, a greenish stumpy oblong or globes with pink or green interiors. We usually call an Asian radish "daikon," a generic Japanese name that usually refers to a long white radish, the kind used to make kim chee or diced to add to soups and stews.
One thing a radish is not is a turnip, a white roundish root with a pink-purplish top. Turnips have a denser texture than radishes, and they’re sweeter, lacking a peppery bite.
Radishes and turnips can be prepared in the same way: peeled, sliced or grated and raw, cut up and added to soups and stews, roasted, steamed, sautéed and stir-fried. And of course, pickled as in kim chee.
Few farmers in Hawaii grow turnips, but locally grown radishes — daikon and table radishes — are plentiful at farmers markets and supermarkets.
Choose radishes that are firm and heavy for their size; green tops should be fresh and crisp. Don’t discard those daikon tops — cook them as you would other green vegetables for their flavor and nutrient value.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown.