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Fakir radishes are a small variety, averaging 3 to 4 centimeters in diameter, and have a uniform, globular shape with a single, slender taproot. The radish also bears short, green tops with oval, lightly serrated leaves attached to the root with thin, pale green stems. The radish’s skin is smooth and firm, showcasing bi-colored scarlet red hues with white tips, similar to a French breakfast radish. Underneath the surface, the flesh is white, semi-aqueous, and crisp with a snap-like, crunchy consistency. Fakir radishes have a mild, subtly sweet, earthy, and peppery flavor with a piquant bite. The radishes are best harvested small to obtain a pleasant taste. If the variety is left to grow for an extended period, the flesh will become somewhat mealy and develop an intense, bitter heat.
Fakir radishes are available year-round, with a peak season in the fall through spring.
Fakir radishes, botanically classified as Raphanus sativus, are a bi-colored globe variety belonging to the Brassicaceae family. The early-maturing radish is a specialty French cultivar favored for its fast-growing nature, small uniform size, and firm texture. Fakir radishes are generally harvested 3 to 4 weeks after germination and are a hardy variety grown year-round in cooler climates. In more seasonal regions, the radish is cultivated in the fall, winter, and spring, as hot weather can cause the variety to develop a bitter, intense flavor. Fakir radishes are sometimes labeled as Spring radishes and are primarily a variety grown by radish enthusiasts and select farms. The plants are also known for their short green tops and are utilized as a companion plant and cover crop in home gardens.
Fakir radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and fiber to regulate the digestive tract. The radishes also provide potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, folate to develop red blood cells for oxygen transport, and contain lower amounts of vitamin B6 and iron. In addition to vitamins and minerals, Fakir radishes encase varying levels of glucosinolates and myrosinase, chemical compounds that give the root its spicy, sharp flavor.
Fakir radishes are well suited for fresh or cooked preparations to showcase the variety’s crunchy texture and earthy flavor. It is important to note that the radish’s flavor will vary depending on when it was harvested. If the radish contains a fiery bite, peeling the skin will help reduce the pungent taste. Fakir radishes can be eaten straight, out-of-hand, served on appetizer plates alongside dips, butter, and soft cheeses, or cut and tossed into salads. The radishes can also be chopped into salsas and coleslaws, used as a topping over tacos, soup, and pizza, or layered into sandwiches for added crunch. In addition to fresh preparations, Fakir radishes can be lightly steamed and coated in a sauce as a side dish, stir-fried with other vegetables, roasted to develop a tender consistency, grilled with meats, or pickled as a tangy, peppery snack. The green leafy tops are also edible and can be incorporated into salads, soups, sauteed side dishes, sandwiches, and stir-fries. Fakir radishes pair well with cheeses such as feta, ricotta, and cheddar, seafood, tofu, avocado, cauliflower, broccoli, snap peas, asparagus, whipped butter, and herbs such as dill, tarragon, cilantro, sage, and thyme. Whole, unwashed Fakir radishes should be separated from their green tops and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator's crisper drawer, where they will keep for 2 to 10 days. The radish greens can be stored for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
In 2015, Fakir radishes won the spiciest radish award at the annual Radish Day at the Longmont Farmer’s Market in Colorado. The Longmont Farmer’s Market is a growers-only market, and the members chose to promote radishes in an effort to raise awareness of seasonal eating. Radishes are one of the first vegetables to appear at the farmer’s market in the spring, and many local farms in Longmont grow a wide array of heirloom and modern radishes, including Fakir radishes. Full Circle Farm grew the Fakir radishes that claimed the spiciest radish award, and the farm’s representative received a radish necklace as a prize. Fakir radishes are generally known for their small size and robust flavor, but if left in the ground for an extended period, the roots can develop a fiery heat, earning their spot as the spiciest at the festival. The spiciest radish award was one of several awards given out during Radish Day. In addition to contests, Radish Day also featured a food truck with radish-centric dishes, radish cooking demonstrations, a radish toss, and a sampling of different radish varieties.
Fakir radishes were developed in France from various national type radishes, varieties that have been sold in French markets since the late 19th century. While much of the variety’s history remains unknown, Fakir radishes were bred and selected for their uniform shape and fast-growing nature. Today Fakir radishes are most commonly found in Europe, specifically England, Lithuania, Germany, and France, and in the United States, where the variety is primarily sold through farmer’s markets and specialty distributors. The bi-colored variety is also grown as a rare radish cultivar in home gardens throughout Europe and the United States.