Rediscover this crisp, colorful root. In the garden, the search for the first fat jewels is a treasure hunt.
SEASON: Available year-round in supermarkets, they’re at their peak in spring.
CHOOSING: When purchasing, look for plump, firm roots, preferably with the leaves still attached. Wilted leaves are a sure sign of mealy radishes below.
STORING: When you bring radishes into the kitchen from the market or garden, chop off the greens—if they remain attached, they’ll pull moisture from the crisp root. The greens have a mild, aromatic flavor and can be used raw or cooked. Store the radish roots in a produce bag in your crisper drawer for up to a week. If the radishes become spongy, crisp them by placing them in a bowl of ice water for up to an hour.
GROWING: Radishes are the ideal introduction-to-gardening crop. They have a short growing time, ideal for children whose attention spans may not last long enough for some vegetables to mature. The cool months of spring and fall are the ideal times to plant. In the warmest regions of the country, where frost is rare, radishes can be grown all winter, while in the coldest regions they can grow all summer. Young radishes and those that mature in cool weather have a mild flavor. Those harvested in the summer heat have a much sharper, almost biting taste.
Start radish prep as early as your soil can be worked, as much as a month before the last expected freeze. Because many radish varieties require only a month from seed to harvest, you can sow a few seeds every week for a continuous supply. In the fall, begin planting about a month before the first expected frost.
Because plants stay small, growing only 6 to 12 inches tall, they’re a good option to plant between larger, slow-maturing vegetables. For example, spring broccoli transplants need about two months to mature. During the first month, you can raise a crop of radishes. By the time the broccoli grows tall enough to cast shade, the radishes are ready to be pulled and eaten.
Varieties of round, usually red radishes include Early Scarlet Globe, Plum Purple, Pink Beauty, German Giant, and the multicolored Easter Egg II. Long radishes include French Breakfast, White Icicle, and China Rose.
Like all root vegetables, radishes prefer loose, well-drained soil. Drag your trowel lightly to create a 1⁄2-inchdeep line for planting. Sow seeds about an inch apart, and then smooth the soil over the seeds. Allow 6 inches between rows. Water well and wait, but not for long. Seedlings will emerge in a few days. A helpful tip: Label your radish rows with the date you planted them to help you know when they’re ready to harvest.