Radishes have been gracing plates for centuries and are known to have been grown and eaten by humans for at least 2,000 and possibly 5,000 years. This root veggie has a lot going for it. It comes in different shapes: round, cylindrical and carrot-shaped. It also comes in multiple colors: white, red, pink, green, purple, black and bicolors. Flavor varies from a bit of a bite to clear-your-sinuses hot. Although usually seen as a salad vegetable or crudité, radishes can also be cooked. In fact, cooking them is a good way to mellow the ones that bite back when raw. The radish is a good source of folate, fiber, riboflavin and potassium, as well as copper, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese and calcium. It also has vitamin C to offer.
You can grow a radish from seed to plate in 21 days. You can also grow them year round, although in the dog days of summer, radishes benefit from plenty of moisture and some shade. Short radishes on water and you’ll regret it (unless you like having your sinuses seared). Some kinds of radishes are meant to be overwintered and store well in the garden. Fodder radishes, a variety of daikon radish, are great for soil building, as they dig deep for soil minerals. Chop them well and add to the compost pile. The roots can get very large and often fork, twist and curl into fantastic shapes; they’re edible for both humans and animals like sheep.
- China Rose – these are shaped like a thick carrot and longer than the usual radish, which means you get more radish in the same space. A pale rose in color with a white inside, they are a fall-winter radish and very good for wintering over. They came to the US in 1859. Mild flavor.
- Watermelon – also known as the Beauty Heart, Shinrimei, Roseheart and Red Me at. This is a daikon radish, typically green on the outside but white and deep fuchsia pink within. Lovely to look at and although no radish is truly sweet, this one has both a sweetness and a slight peppery taste. Another one that does better in fall. It’s considered an heirloom and originally came from China, but no one seems to know just when.
- Round Black Spanish – This is a winter storage radish that’s been around since the 1600s. Black skin and white interior. I find this one is best eaten cooked, as it’s quite spicy. There’s a similar and much older version that has a tap root like a carrot.
- Purple Plum – the skin ranges from lavender to a deep purple, with a white interior. My husband, who loves radishes, says this is one of the best. It is one of the sweeter radishes. Not very old, as it was first released by the Alf Christianson Seed Company in 1985.
- White Icicle – another hubby-approved radish, this looks like a short white carrot. Quite mild as radishes go. It’s been around since shortly before the American Civil War. Also known as White Naples, White Italian, Long White and White Transparent.
This is another veggie where you don’t need to chose just one. Radishes take up very little space and they mature very quickly. You can interplant them with pretty much anything and have them on your plate before things get crowded.