Sadly, I just harvested the last of my spring radishes. Radishes have a fancy name, Raphanus sativus, but should be on every beginning gardener’s list of easy-to-grow vegetables. They are a cool season vegetable for spring as well as fall that are frost resistant. As soon as the soil can be worked in the spring, the seeds can be planted and then it will be only three weeks to harvest! Now I call that ‘almost instant gratification’!
Root crops all have similar soil preferences ~ well drained, rich in organic material and about an inch of water per week. Lightly mulch the seeds, as once they begin to grow, it is possible to have a spring heat wave and the mulch will keep the plants cool.
Radishes love full sun; the seeds are sown directly into the soil and all that is necessary is a little thinning to encourage root development. Personally, I drop in seeds one by one; yes, a little obsessive but in the long run saves a lot of precious time in the thinning department. When to thin? Once seedlings grow, they create two small leaves. When the third leaf appears and the seedling is about an inch tall, it indicates that maturity is about to set in so it is time to thin the plants. I make a big deal about this, as overcrowding is the most common cause of failure to produce the root.
Rarely are radishes bothered by pests (only on occasion by flea beetles or cabbage root maggots). So why grow them you ask. One, because they are practically foolproof, it makes them fun to grow with kids. Two, they come in a range of beautiful colors and an interesting range of shapes and sizes. Three, because you can. No excuses for not having a garden ~ they will even grow in pots.
The ‘Cherry Belle’ salad variety is my personal favorite ~ they have a good amount of spicy heat to them, they have a nice round shape and you can eat the leaves (I love being able to eat multiple parts of a plant).
‘French Breakfast’ is a beautiful rose-colored oblong heirloom radish that is just as simple to grow.
If you are going to attempt to grow fall radishes, I suggest daikon radishes. They are white, resemble carrots and are slow to mature; thus giving you radishes until winter. I respect a gardening challenge and the Oriental daikons will certainly give you one.
My momma was the only person I knew growing up that ate radishes. She always tried to entice her children by serving them with carrots and celery. As a child I thought they tasted like dirt (one of my five older siblings must have made me eat dirt as I am familiar with its taste) but now I love their different flavors and texture. They are the perfect vibrant addition to a crudité platter served with hot mustard. I find them to be divine when pickled. Mix them with a vinaigrette to bring a peppery bite to any plain green salad and show off the bounty of the season. Or slice them raw as a condiment with a touch of vinegar on your favorite sandwich. They are also lovely just dipped in sea salt. The Japanese use them to cleanse the palate.
One of my favorite ways to prepare them is roasted in the oven with potatoes, carrots and onions alongside a small chicken. Just clean them like the other vegetables and once the bird has begun to cook and give off some of its fat and juice, toss in the vegetables and roast until all are evenly browned. A 3-4 pound chicken will only take a little over an hour to cook so it is perfect to use these vegetables in this way. Nothing better than a one pot meal!
In the June 2017 issue of Cooking Light magazine, there is a recipe for miso-glazed radishes. I will be preparing this dish soon with what remains of my harvest. The recipe sounds simple and elegant. I have prepared sautéed radishes and served them with a Dijon vinaigrette. Also quite simple and delicious.
A friend came for dinner recently and I prepared the following dish along with grilled butterflied Cornish game hens. Easy and tasty too! Plus, it calls for Israeli couscous which is one my favorite ingredients to use in place of pasta ~ they are the cutest little round balls.
Ali’s Radish Couscous Salad
- 1 medium shallot, finely minced
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- Salt/fresh ground pepper to taste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 c. Israeli couscous, cooked according to package
- 1 – 1/2 c. radishes, cleaned and sliced
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced in half
- 1/2 c. pistachio nuts, shelled
- 1/4 c. Feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped
- In a large bowl, whisk oil, zest, juice, salt and peppers.
- Stir in remaining ingredients and garnish with extra mint.
In my agricultural zone it is too late for the spring radishes now but the farmer’s markets will still have them and will surely be more of a flavor bomb than most store-bought varieties. Finally, let us not overlook the ‘Night of the Radishes’, a celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico on December 23rd where huge radishes are carved into unusual figures ~ the reason is unknown but then some people will use any excuse for a party!