I’m no radish expert, but I am a sucker for these crunchy, water-packed little veggies that taste like the first days of summer. They remind me of my childhood, when I'd help my dad pull dirt-covered cherry red radishes from the garden and then taste their crispness at dinner that evening. So now, 20 years later, they've become a staple in my own garden.
After a little investigating, I learned that these healthy, hydrating vegetables come in all shapes, colors and sizes. When planning our garden this spring, my fiancé and I decided to try something other than the traditional round, red varieties. We planted French Breakfast heirloom radish seeds the first weekend in May in our little Des Moines plot. Since June 1, we've enjoyed these long, cylindrical radishes that have a nice mild flavor. All it took was some watering and thinning them out to an inch apart.
They're sooo easy that I'd love to try more varieties this fall and next spring. To get some suggestions, I checked with Art Davidson, horticulturalist for Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. in Missouri. He quickly rattled off a bunch of unique radishes sure to rev up any garden—and dinner plate.
Saxa 2 Radish
For almost instant gratification, plant Saxa 2 Radish. They look and taste pretty standard but are ready to harvest in just 18 days.
Chinese Red Meat (also known as a Watermelon radish)
This beautiful, large round radish has a rosy-red center that makes it resemble a watermelon. But the best part is its super-sweet flavor. “It’s one of the sweetest radishes,” Art says.
Munchener Bier Radish
For German-food fans, this 4-inch German heirloom radish is typically sliced and served on bread or with pretzels. “It has a pungent, spicy flavor,” Art says.
Round Black Spanish Radish
These huge radishes take longer than average to grow (60 to 70 days), but they’re worth it if you’re looking for a spicy kick. Art likes to shred them to put in salads or to spice up stir-fry dishes.
Purple Plum Radish
For fun color on your plate, go with these bright purple radishes. They grow fast and have a crisp, pleasant taste.
Now, what to do with all those crunchy, fresh-from-the-garden radishes (beyond dress up your salads)?
1. Simply halve them and spread on creamy butter; add a pinch of salt and pepper.
2. Add a few slices to your favorite deli sandwich.
3. Top tacos with a mix of chopped cilantro, onion, a little lime juice and thin radish slices.
4. Give a potato salad  color and crunch.
5. For a tasty party appetizer, spread butter on baguette slices and top with radish slices.
Radish variety photos courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. (rareseeds.com ). Food photography by Blaine Moats.