Wild radish Raphanus raphanistrum is a valuable winter and spring vegetable, in the brassica family. Whether the plant is native to the Mediterranean area or Asia is disputed, but it is now a globalised wild food that is loved by foragers far and wide.
The plant has various common names around the world, including cadlock, jointed charlock, and runch. The botanical name for wild radish derives from Greek, meaning to appear quickly: its germination is rapid, although the plant recedes if the soil remains undisturbed. Being a pioneer species, it likes disturbed soil. Where it springs up may indicate acidity, although it will grow in most soil types. It is a frost-hardy, tenacious plant. In a climate-changed future we may be eating a lot more plants like this.
Wild radish grows in all Australian states – it suits temperate and subalpine climates, and has also been found in subtropical areas; it hasn’t naturalised in the Northern Territory. While it can be a great food source, around four million hectares of it are sprayed each year in Australia with about $40 million worth of herbicide according to the Herbiguide website www.herbiguide.com.au. While it’s usually broadacre cropping farms that spray the plants, always be careful where you forage it – your gut flora doesn’t need any more residual pesticides.
Wild radish is sometimes a biannual but mostly an annual plant, with a much branched rosette habit. The leaves are rough, grow quite large and are generally toothed. The stalks can grow to one metre. The flowers are very typical of brassicas: they vary in colour, including white, yellow, pink, cream and lilac; and they form in clusters at the ends of the stem branches. The tap roots are generally small.
We eat a lot of weeds when our produce garden enters a period of lower productivity over the winter months, and we always use wild radish when making hearty stews, bone broths and curries. We cook the leaves and stems well to soften and reduce fibres, and harvest only the very young leaves for eating raw in salads, open sandwiches or juices.
The tubers, although quite insignificant in size, taste just like cultivated radish tubers, and are useful to include in winter soups, stews and salads. The flowers are also excellent in salads. The roots can be used to make anti-fungal extract. The plant contains useful glucosinolates that help make minerals and nutrients more bioavailable. The plant is also an awesome green manure over the winter months, and bees love the flowers.
If you have a question about weeds for Patrick you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org