We were scratching our heads. Were they cabbage seedlings? Rocket? Whatever they were, these mysterious plants were doing extremely well. Lush green leaves, no insect-nibbled holes – an advertisement for all things wholesome and healthy.
The seeds arrived in the post as part of a “mystery” Cook and Bake box that I ordered. I recalled unpacking several packets of seeds, including parsley and beans. But these plants were not even first cousins six times removed. The problem was that I no longer had the packages to see what I planted where.
Huge was my disappointment when I discovered that my puzzling plants were actually RADISHES.
I don’t like radishes. My childhood memories are the rosy round ones that look very appetising until you bite into them and jolts of pungent, bitter and pepper tastes are released in your mouth.
You could not spit them out fast enough!
A 2015 research study at Austria’s University of Innsbruck found that people who prefer bitter tastes can be "positively associated with psychopathy, everyday sadism, trait aggression and negatively associated agreeableness…"
"General bitter taste preferences emerged as a robust predictor for Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, and everyday sadism."
This weird taste pleasure trigger was compared to a rollercoaster ride where people enjoy things that induce fear. I don’t know how credible this study is, but radishes, strong, black, unsweetened coffee and gin and tonic all fall in the “bitter” category!
With my love for sugar, I am certainly not a “bitter eating” person. And MY radishes did not look like my childhood memories, albeit they were certainly lookers: long white beauties.
Raphanus sativus (commonly known as radishes) come in all shapes, sizes and colours. While there is no agreement whether the ancient Greeks, Chinese or Egyptians first cultivated this vegetable, the original ones were apparently black. Radishes belong to the mustards, the crucifers, or the cabbage family. To me you either love them or hate them.
I was certainly a hater … until I discovered that my creamy white tubers were actually called “Daikon” or Japanese radishes with a much sweeter and milder taste, especially when pulled out when they are young.
I learned that the more pungent bigger ones can also be mouth-watering good, and delicious when cooked, roasted or pickled. It takes your stews to new levels and it adds a fresh tang to carrots, spinach and other vegetables.
This new taste bud experience made me think about human prejudice. We love to categorise the world, often unconsciously. Not only tastes like bitter, sweet, sour and salty, but our brains are quick to assess “us” and “them,” usually telling us why we don't like "them."
Prejudice, according to research, is driven by fear.
While prejudice at one time in our ancient history helped us to avoid real danger, e.g. a roaring lion, growling wolf or snake in the grass, it now seems to be more harmful than helping.
We start avoiding some good things, because we fear that "they" may be bad. Understanding where our "us" and "them" brain wiring comes from, can offer new freedom and opportunities.
We must expose our children to diversity, i.e. race, gender and religion. Focusing only on what is known has led to the demise of many a nation.
Let us use social media, Skype and all available channels to create a world that does not revolve around fear.
Clutching to divisive impulses that no longer serve our survival will sadly eventually lead to our downfall. What we initially perceived as “bitter” or unacceptable, could actually be sweet and appealing if we open ourselves to new experiences.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!
FOOTNOTE:Whether you like your radishes sweet and mild, or hot and pungent, these crisp, crunchy veggies are also high in Vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. And they have antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying properties – all qualities to wash out systemic toxins if we are brave enough to try them.