Are Funky-Smelling Pickled Radishes Safe to Eat?

Funky odors go hand-in-hand with certain pickled crucifers.

While it’s always a good idea to be alert to off-smells, particularly with home canning and pickling, the funky smell of a just-opened jar of pickled radishes is a false alarm. Radishes belong to the family Brassicaceae, more commonly known as cruciferous vegetables, which also includes daikon, turnips, and cauliflower. When the cells of cruciferous vegetables are damaged or disrupted in some way (chopping, slicing, the early stages of cooking), they release an enzyme that converts compounds called glucosinolates into other compounds called isothiocyanates and nitriles. The nitriles are the predominant product formed under acidic conditions, such as pickling. Radishes, along with daikon and turnips, contain particular glucosinolates that produce rather evil-smelling nitriles in the presence of an acid like vinegar. Cooking radishes can deactivate the enzyme. Unfortunately, a cooked radish is a soft radish and not ideal for pickling. We tried blanching the radishes briefly in boiling water to deactivate the enzyme, but in order to maintain the crunch, the cooking time had to be short, so the smell remained.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Funky odors go hand-in-hand with certain pickled crucifers. But the smell dissipates quickly and the pickles should taste fine.

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