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A vegetable delight

radishesPhotographed by Jim Stott

Little did we know when starting to investigate the humble radish that this healthy little vegetable comes in so many varieties and stars in so many wonderful recipes. The name radish comes from the Latin word for “root” and is a plant in the same family as horseradish and turnip. With a mild peppery flavor and distinctive crunch, radishes are a great spring garden plant. They are easy and quick to grow, and they thrive in almost any season, in any climate. Because radishes do not require a lot of space or attention, you can grow them in containers or in a traditional garden bed. Either way, expect a harvest about one month after sowing the seeds—ideal for those of us who love instant gratification!

Knowing when to harvest them is the key to perfect radishes with crispy good flavor. For the best radishes, plant them in a friable soil when the weather is cool and provide constant moisture. Because spring varieties mature relatively quickly, pay close attention and harvest before they pass their prime. The best way to determine when to harvest is to push back a little soil to see if a bulb has grown; then pick and taste a few.

Our favorites for spring are Cherry Belle (the ones you find in the market year-round), the elongated, purplish Easter Egg, the elegant White Icicle, and the slightly sweeter French Breakfast radish. Google radishes, and you’ll find at least a dozen different varieties, each more beautiful than the last. They are low in calories, full of vitamin C as well as phosphorus and zinc, and considered a naturally cooling food in eastern medicine since they seem to decrease excess heat in the body.

The true flavor of a radish is best showcased when eaten raw. Radishes are ideal for crudités, hold their own flavor-wise with any cheese, and are firm enough for dipping. We have also become big fans of roasting radishes. The slow-roasted vegetables are great served with pork or chicken. And don’t forget that you can add the greens to salads as you would any fresh greens. Be sure to scrub your radishes under cold water and trim root ends just before using. For added crispness, soak radishes in ice water for a couple of hours.

Plant a few this spring and enjoy!

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