The English, Italian, and French common names for radish all evolved from the Latin word for root. Its scientific name, Raphanus comes from an old Greek expression, raphanos, which means "easily reared."
As wild radishes are found in China, it is believed to have originated there. Many forms of the plant were introduced in Middle Asia in later years. Egyptians commonly ate radishes before the pyramids were built.
The Greeks prized them so highly, that small replicas of them were made in gold, and an ancient Greek physician wrote a whole book about the plant.
Commonly used varieties in Europe in the middle ages were large, late varieties as opposed to the small early ones now commonly eaten in the western world. In 1544, a German botanist reported radishes weighing a hundred pounds.
They came to the Americas with early European explorers, were among the first crops grown by the English colonists in this country, and have been popular here ever since.
Round radishes range in size from that of a cherry to that of a basketball; long ones range from the size of one's finger up to more than two feet long and five or six inches in diameter. Large ones are grown in the orient are started in plant beds and transplanted to the garden about a foot apart in the rows.
Small radishes of red, or white or variegated red and white are the most commonly used in the U.S.