PHOTO: Jessica Walliser
April 7, 2016

Radishes are one of the earliest crops to get planted in the garden. They thrive in spring’s cool weather, and most varieties mature in a mere 30 days. Easy to start by directly sowing the seeds into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked, the crisp bite of a fresh radish is one of spring’s finest flavors.

If you’ve been growing radishes for years, you may already know about the diverse array of colors and flavors available from this root crop. But if you think radishes are only red, I’d like to introduce you to a handful of out-of-the-box radish varieties that each offer unique flavors, textures and colors to the kitchen.

I’ve enjoyed growing several dozen different radish varieties in my garden over the past 15 years, and I’ve come to discover I’m a big fan of these little roots. I enjoy growing at least one new-to-me variety every year, along with several different old favorites. To extend the harvest, I sow 20 to 30 seeds into my Pennsylvania garden every week, starting in mid-March and continuing until early May. By doing this, my family has just enough roots to keep our plates filled every week, without having more radishes than we can handle. These are some of my favorites.

Starburst Radishes

Although this variety takes a little longer to mature than some others, this watermelon-type radish is a knock-out. So pretty! The brilliant-pink inner flesh is surrounded by bright-white skin. The pale pink stripes radiating out from the center of each slice give it its name. The flavor is sweet and not the least bit bitter.

Easter Egg Radishes

When my husband and I farmed commercially, this was our go-to radish blend for farmers market sales. Our customers loved the mixture of purple, pink, white and fuchsia roots in each bunch. They can be harvested as large as an 1½ inches in diameter, and they seldom get pithy. I has a great traditional radish flavor, too.

Bora King Radishes

Unlike common radishes, the purple roots of Bora King aren’t round—they’re elongated. Each 7-inch-long radish offers a super-yummy flavor. The leaves are serrated, and the stems are streaked with purple. Best harvested at an inch in diameter, Bora King is one of the most unique radishes you can find.

D’Avignon Radishes

Of all the French breakfast-type radishes, this variety is my favorite. The long, red, cylindrical roots are tipped with white at their ends. Ready to harvest in as little as 20 days after sowing, this fast grower is great for both spring and fall plantings. My favorite way to eat them is as thin slices spread out on a piece of buttered bread.

Pink Beauty Radishes

These stunning, uniform, round roots have bright-pink skin and white inner flesh. The texture is incredibly crisp, and the flavor has no hints of bitterness or heat. Pink Beauty is a fairly fast-growing radish; they’re ready to pull from the garden in less than 30 days from seed.

Schwarzer Runder Radishes

While I was hesitant to grow this black radish when I first came across it, I’m so glad I took the chance. This radish offers a spicy kick and earthy flavor unlike any other radish I’ve tried. The thick skin is pitch black, and the flesh is bright white—such a beautiful contrast on the plate. This is a winter radish, meaning it’s good for fall growing, followed by winter storage in the root cellar. Although it takes a good 60 to 65 days to mature, it’s worth the wait.

Zlata Radishes

If you want a spicy hot radish, this is the variety for you. With golden-yellow skin and white flesh, Zlata is both beautiful and tasty. I find it to be more bolt-resistant than some other radish varieties, extending my radish harvest by several weeks. The roots resist cracking, too.



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