I grow a lot of radishes. My husband, who’s not keen on too many vegetables, loves them. As does his father, who regularly sits down to an entire bowl, which he eats plain except for a sprinkling of salt. So every spring I make sure to put in a healthy radish patch, just to make sure I have some left for me!
The two varieties I’ve been regularly growing for the past few years are Easter Egg and French Breakfast. Easter Egg is actually a mixture of varieties, which is one of its primary advantages. Radishes grow very quickly (mine mature anywhere from 4-6 weeks from sowing, depending on the weather), and they also quickly pass their prime. Sowing a mixture of varieties helps space out the harvest a bit, and with Easter Egg, you have that variation built in.
French Breakfast radishes mature slightly earlier than Easter Egg radishes, which can be an advantage, but they also tend to mature all at once. That can be great if you’re growing large quantities for market (and these are a beautiful, eye-catching variety for a market stall), but for home use, make sure you don’t sow your entire patch of French Breakfast at once. Space out your sowings by a week or two to keep from being overwhelmed and having to throw half your harvest on the compost pile, when the roots get too big and lose their crispness. This goes for other varieties of radish as well, but it’s especially important when you’re growing a uniform variety like French Breakfast.
One other important difference I’ve noticed between my varieties of radish is that Easter Egg is more prone to splitting than French Breakfast. Heavy rain or heavy hand-watering is the immediate culprit when it comes to splitting, but some varieties seem to stand up to a sudden influx of water better than others.
If you haven’t planted any radishes yet this spring, never fear! There’s still time. But if you find yourself planting into the hotter half of spring, plant the seeds a little deeper than normal (1″ rather than 1/2″) and get the plants some dappled shade if possible. When you harvest, know that radishes go through three phases. When they’re small, they’re super-crisp and sweet. As they get a little larger, they take on more of that distinctive radishy “bite.” But when they get too big, the texture starts to suffer.
When you get the harvest into the house, don’t forget that there are more ways to eat radishes than just sliced on salad (or salted and eaten raw from a bowl!). They are also excellent roasted or stir-fried. I like throwing mine in the pan with green peppers and onions and sautéing on medium-high heat until lightly browned. The flavor can’t be beat! I also enjoy eating them on salad drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or the French way: on bread and butter!