Wild radish seeds
Botanical name: Raphanus sativus major
The "Ramolaccio" is rather known with the name of "winter radish", but it is still not very common in Italy: in fact the Mediterranean diet does not foresee a frequent use of this particular root, even if in recent times its use in the kitchen has been expanding. It belongs to the same family of radishes, with which it has some physical characteristics in common; at the same time it is very resistant to cold and low temperatures. It is from this particularity that the species derives its nickname.
Unlike radishes, it can be grown in the garden or on the balcony even in winter and autumn, it has a spicier and more intense flavor and its color can vary from white to black. Sensitive to drought, the wild radish includes eight different species, native to the Mediterranean basin, Europe and Central Asia. Endemic to eastern and central Asia, where the specimens reach considerable size, the plant spread throughout Europe at the end of the eighteenth century.
It tolerates both low and high temperatures well, so it can be grown all year round. Depending on the variety it is perennial, biennial or annual, although it generally tends to the second type of growth. The cultivation takes place for the swollen roots, 30 centimeters long and with a variable diameter between 2 and 10 centimeters; these contain a spicy oil, responsible for the pungent taste of the wild radish.
The vegetable is characterized by lobed or feather-shaped leaves and to reach a maximum height of one meter, even if in Italy the specimens generally do not exceed 40 centimeters. The flowers can be purple, white, or pale yellow, and the fruit breaks off when ripe.
History and origins of the wild radish
The wild radish is native to the areas of China and Japan. Great Britain was one of the first, if not the first Western nation to import the seeds of the radish, giving rise to such interest as to extend the cultivation to the south of British soil.
Nutritional and beneficial properties of the wild radish
The wild radish is a vegetable rich in nutrients: in fact it has high levels of mineral salts (especially magnesium and phosphorus) and vitamin C. For this reason and the fact that it can be kept for a long time, it has been used for centuries as a remedy against scurvy, a disease caused by the lack of vitamins and fresh foods and which mainly affected ship crews).
Furthermore, wild radish is a plant with stimulating, diuretic and purifying capacities as it acts on the liver, favoring the production of bile. Finally it is an excellent expectorant.
Use of the wild radish in the kitchen
The wild radish's roots are harvested about a month after sowing, that is when the vegetables have reached such a size that they can be sold and consumed. Contrary to popular belief, it is better not to delay the harvest too much, because you risk compromising the flavor of the pulp. In general, this vegetable is used grated, raw in combination with other vegetables or preserved in vinegar: for example, salads combined with wild radish roots cut into thin slices are very popular.
Just like with spinach, the leaves of this vegetable are used after having been deprived of the rib and the stalks: they are consumed seasoned with oil, butter, grated Parmesan or other types of cheese.
We recommend pairing with other raw seasonal vegetables such as carrot, pumpkin, onion and cauliflower. From the point of view of health, the wild radish serves as a basic ingredient for juices and syrups thanks to which the purifying and diuretic properties are best exploited. To prepare the wild radish syrup, for example, a black wild radish is cut into thin slices and left to ferment for 24 hours in a hermetically sealed jar together with 3-4 tablespoons of honey, brown sugar or malt.
Few people know that the wild radish has an attenuating effect on the freckles: it is necessary to cut the roots into thin slices, cover them with salt and leave them to rest for a few hours. In this way we obtain a juice used as a home remedy to lighten the freckles; it also works effectively with all types of dark spots on the skin. Alternatively, wild radish's juice is used in folk medicine as a cough remedy.
Generally the roots have an elongated shape, but there are varieties that have a rounded appearance. In Tuscany, a distinction is made between real ramolacci and roots: the former are eaten with tuna, the latter with boiled meat.