Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why We Grow Radishes

We've already alluded to some of the appeal of the radish in the home garden or urban farm. Radishes can tolerate the cold temperatures of the early spring, and are typically the first plants of the year to sprout. On top of that early start, they don't take very long to grow to harvest-able size. The Sparkler variety that we planted says 21 days to harvest on the seed packet, but we let ours go for another week or so. It's easy to see when they're ready to pick by simply brushing away some of the soil at the base of the plant. If the top of the root is a good size, maybe an inch in diameter, you can go ahead and pull it. Here are a few we pulled just the other day.

Now, we've previously used the greens as a kind of garnish/side on the pork chops we recently made. They're pretty tasty: they start off tasting much like a chard or collard, but finish with a bit of a bite. We're hoping to use up many of our radish greens in that way, but the fact remains that if you're going to grow radishes, you better want to eat a lot of the roots too. And if we're honest about it, radishes aren't exactly our favorite vegetable.

You can put them in salads, but that's a very slow way to use up a whole harvest. You can eat them simply sliced and with salt on top; if you're one of those who loves the peppery flavor, this is probably what you'd do. And we'll usually do this a few times per harvest, but they just become a bit too potent that way. Thankfully, we've discovered the simple awesomeness of the radish sandwich. Probably a good three-quarters of our radish harvest will be consumed this way.

Basically, all you need to do is slice the radish into thin slices. A mandoline would make quick work of this, but a sharp knife will do the trick just fine. Then butter a slice of bread with a nice layer of softened butter. Probably the best way we've done this is with a good soft French baguette, but in a pinch when you have a great-looking radish, any bread will do. Arrange the radishes in a single layer on top, and sprinkle generously with sea salt. You could put another piece of bread on top, but experience has taught us that we prefer them open-faced. That's all there is to it!

Something about this just makes radishes so much more delicious. Salt and radishes are a well known combination, but the addition of the butter brings everything together. The creaminess mellows some of the fire of the radishes, but subtly; you definitely know you're still eating radishes. This combination adds depth of flavor to what can often be an overpowering one-note vegetable. Radish sandwiches have transformed this early-season staple from a mere harbinger of the growing season into a harvest that we look forward to.

If you can't get excited about the notion of growing your own radishes, give one of these basic sandwiches a try. You might be surprised to find a new love for a veggie you never used to look forward to. They're the easiest thing to grow in a home garden, so why not give them a try?

This post has been shared at Simple Lives Thursday.


  1. Those radishes are just gorgeous! Thanks for the idea of another great way to eat them. I've got Farmer John's cookbook...I believe I read that you can roast them in the oven with good results too.

  2. Going to try this today on some homemade wheat bread. I'd heard of the butter and radish combo before. This seems less messy than just spreading them with butter.