Radishes are one of the first spring crops available at your local market. Despite their vibrant pink, red, and purple hues, radishes tend to fly under the radar. Whether enjoyed raw, pickled, or roasted, this modest crop deserves a more prominent place on our plates.
In the Garden
Radishes belong to the brassica genus or mustard family of plants. Like their cousins – kale, cauliflower, cabbage – radishes are a perfect addition to any Montana garden. They are typically a cool-season, direct-seed plant that can be started in early April and then again in August. Because radishes are root vegetables, they prefer loose, nutrient-dense soil that allows space for them to grow. Stress from drought or heat can cause your radishes to develop a poor flavor and tough texture. As some of the quickest growing crops, you can begin your harvest 3-5 weeks after planting. Radishes will let you know when they are ready by poking their red roots up above the soil, showing you their size.
From D’Avignon to Cherry Belles and Watermelon radishes, there are many varieties to choose from when planning your garden. The spicy, wasabi-like flavor in radishes is due to a group of compounds called isothiocyanates. These compounds are actually a good thing! They help protect our DNA and have anti-carcinogenic properties. Typically, keeping your radishes in the ground for longer will increase their isothiocyanates content and they will develop more of that spicy flavor.
In the Kitchen
Depending on variety, growth time, and cooking method, the flavor of a radish can range from crisp and mild to spicy mustard. Eaten raw, they are a great addition to salads and tacos. We also love a simple but surprisingly delicious radish tartine, which is just a fancy name for toast with butter, raw radish, and sea salt. Trust us on this one, it’s really good.
Cooking radish by roasting or sauteing them can really bring out the sweetness and make this unassuming root vegetable really shine. When cooked, radishes get soft and tender, kind of like a potato. And don’t even think about throwing away those green radish tops! Toss them into your pan for the last few minutes of cooking to elevate the flavor of your meal.
And, if you can’t keep up with your radish crop this year, this recipe for pickled radishes is a delicious way to preserve them to be enjoyed for months to come.
Tracee Hume is a Bozeman-based Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana. She loves making a mess in her kitchen, but doesn’t love cleaning it up. Send her your favorite recipes at [email protected]!