The passing resemblance of radishes to baby beets masks an overall abundance of differences, since the former stands out for its eye-wateringly peppery juice and distinctive crunch while the latter has a sweet flavor and tender texture. Both are root vegetables that lend themselves to salads and pickling. Beets come into their own in soups, while radishes form the key ingredient in Asian-influenced stir-fries and condiments.
Beets belong to the same vegetable family as chard and spinach with a season running from June to October, whereas radishes have more in common with fellow brassicaceae vegetables, such as broccoli and mustard, and are at their best as a spring vegetable; they do grow throughout the year, however. The distinctive feature of the beet is its vivid purple color, one of the reasons it was historically used as a dye. Radishes, on the other hand, vary from white to black. Beets are round, bulbous root vegetables, while radishes can be small and round or long and thin, as in the Asian daikon.
The key to preparing beets is to avoid coming into contact with the purple dye, which will stain hands and clothing. Although they can be peeled and shredded or fine-sliced raw for use in salads; steaming, roasting or boiling capitalizes on their intense sweetness and earthy flavors. The oxalates in beet skin cause irritation in some people, particularly when juicing, but cooking neutralizes the effect, although they are still more pleasant with the skin removed. Radishes, by contrast, are usually eaten raw in salads for their peppery flavor and crunchy texture, although they can be braised or pickled. In Asian cuisine, daikon is a common ingredient in salads, condiments, stir-fries and Korean kimchee.