Pity the store-bought radish in winter. Often large, woody, cracked, it tastes like it could be made of bitter plywood. Not to worry. You can have fresh-tasting radishes if you grow your own this spring.
Radishes are cool-season root vegetables. Seeds can be sown as soon as the ground is workable. Radish seeds begin to germinate once the soil reaches about 52 degrees. They can be grown in the ground, in containers or even in a shallow window box. Best of all, many are ready to harvest in as little as 21 days.
A Rainbow of Radishes
I did a quick survey of the 2018 seed catalogs and found more than 40 radish varieties in an assortment of colors and shapes. When choosing radishes, I like to think about how I’m going to use them and how they’ll look in a dish. Many are round but others taper like carrots. There are plenty of red radishes, but you’ll also find varieties that are white, deep purple, magenta, near-black, green and even pink.
These colorful root crops range in flavor from deliciously mild and mellow to pungent and spicy. I used them steamed, creamed, stir-fried or microwaved. Grated, they offer color and texture to coleslaw. And, the young leaves can be sprinkled on cooked vegetables, soups or salads.
The Long and Short of It (Radishes That Is)
There are two basic types of radishes: short and long season. Short-season or “spring” radishes, such as Cherry Queen, Early Scarlet Globe, and Cherriette mature quickly. You can harvest them about 21 days after sowing the seeds. In fact, many radishes have the shortest seed-to-harvest time of any of the vegetables we grow, making them a great project for kids.
Short-season radishes are best planted in spring and again in late summer. Hot weather and increasing daylight in spring slows their growth, causing them to “bolt” (i.e., flower), which creates woody, spicy bulbs.
Long-season or “winter” radishes are much larger and take longer to develop— about 60 days or more from sowing seeds to harvest. We plant long-season varieties, such as the Asian Daikon, in mid-summer for a late harvest. Summer Cross is a white radish that can grow 18 inches long and weigh up to a pound! Daikon radishes tend to be larger and taste more spicy-hot than their European counterparts. They prefer cool weather and grow best when sown in late summer or early fall.
Misato Rose is another autumn-harvested beauty. The outside skin is white to light green and the center is a watermelon pink. The bulbs are 3- to 4-inches wide with a crisp texture and a mild to sweet peppery flavor.
Easter Egg radishes offer a unique mix of colors in white, rose, pink, lavender and scarlet, and as the name implies, they are shaped like eggs. Rat’s Tail radish is one of the more unusual varieties, grown for its 6-inch-long edible seed pods, not the bulb. Pods, harvested in about 50 days from sowing, may be used raw in salads or stir-fried, boiled or steamed.