Summer produce is plentiful now, but you might want to think about planting a fall crop. One of the easiest cool-season vegetables to grow is the radish.
Radishes will be ready to harvest quite rapidly, as early as three weeks after planting for some varieties, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service says radish seeds may be planted around the first of August in this area.
Madison County farmer Jane O'Tiernan, who grows the basic cherry belle radish, said seeds may be planted as soon as the soil starts to cool, in part shade or afternoon shade.
"You can keep the soil cooler between the rows with any kind of mulch, grass or even three or four layers of newspaper covered with soil," she said.
UK Extension recommends sowing seeds ¼ inch deep in rows one foot or wider. Radishes should be thinned to allow 2 to 3 inches between plants. Make several small plantings at seven– to 10– day intervals because radishes are in prime condition for only a few days.
Radishes are plentiful year-round at the supermarket, but mostly you'll see red, globe-shaped radishes. Other varieties include the watermelon radish, which is a plain greenish-white root. But when you slice it open, it reveals a stunning fuchsia interior. They're also known as red-meat or beauty-heart radishes.
White daikons are carrot-shaped and slightly hotter than the small red. Black radishes are fat and turnip-shaped, and have a very hot bite.
According to Burpee Seed Co., winter radishes such as China Rose and Long Black Spanish require a longer growing period but are superior to spring types in many ways. They hold their quality in the garden longer, store better and have a more distinctive flavor. By growing a number of varieties from both types, you can harvest radishes throughout spring, fall and winter.
Although radishes are easy to grow, knowing when to harvest is the key to perfect radishes with crisp roots and mild flavor instead of hot as fire and as pithy as corks, according to Real Simple. For the best radishes, plant them in a friable soil when the weather is cool, and provide constant moisture.
Because the spring varieties, in particular, mature rapidly, you must pull radishes before they pass their prime. Radishes that have been left in the garden too long will be fit only for the compost pile. The best way to determine when to harvest is to push back a little soil to see if a bulb has grown, and then pick and taste a few.
When buying radishes at farmers markets or at the supermarket, always look for bunches with the leaves still attached, according to Cooking Light. The greens are a guarantee of the roots' freshness. Wilted, desiccated leaves above are a sure sign of mealy radishes below, and therefore a signal to pass on to other bunches. Once you get your radishes home, chop off the greens, wash them well and store them between paper towels in a zip-top plastic bag. The greens have a mild, aromatic flavor, and can go raw into salads or cooked into soups.
Store the radish roots in breathable plastic bags in the produce drawer. Should the radishes become spongy after a few days, crisp them by placing them in a bowl of ice water for up to one hour.
Here are some tasty ways to add radishes to your meals. A classic recipe is the French hors d'oeuvre, which is simply radishes, cut in half, and served with a good quality butter and fine sea salt.
One of the best ways to use radishes is in a salad, and this is a favorite with readers. It's from the chefs at Harry's Bar in Hamburg, Lansdowne Shoppes, and Palomar Centre.
Harry's chopped salad
1 head finely chopped lettuce
8 ounces chopped ham
8 ounces chopped cucumber
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
4 ounces chopped radish
4 ounces corn chips
4 ounces garlic ranch dressing
Toss all ingredients and serve promptly, or toss ingredients with salad dressing on the side.
Roasted radishes with brown butter, lemon and radish tops
2 bunches medium radishes (such as red, pink and purple; about 20)
1½ tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Cut off all but ½ inch of green radish tops; reserve trimmed tops and rinse them well, checking for grit. Coarsely chop radish tops and set aside. Cut radishes lengthwise in half and place in medium bowl. Add olive oil and toss thoroughly to coat.
Place radishes, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Roast until radishes are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Season to taste with more coarse kosher salt, if desired.
Melt butter in heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Add pinch of coarse kosher salt to skillet and cook until butter browns, swirling skillet frequently to keep butter solids from burning, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in fresh lemon juice.
Transfer roasted radishes to warmed shallow serving bowl and drizzle brown butter over. Sprinkle with chopped radish tops and serve.
From Bon Appetit
Nectarine and radish salsa
2¼ cups diced nectarines, in ¼-inch pieces
1½ cups radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½ cup chopped cucumber
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss well. Let the salsa mixture stand 30 minutes. Makes 4 cups. Serve with grilled chicken, pork or fish, or use as a topping for grilled bread or a dip for toasted tortilla wedges.
From Cooking Light
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup julienne-cut carrot
¾ cup julienne-cut daikon radish
¾ cup julienne-cut yellow squash
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Combine dark sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and salt in a medium bowl. Add carrot, radish and yellow squash; toss. Top with cilantro leaves.
From Cooking Light
2 bunches radishes (about 1 pound), preferably icicle, tops trimmed to 1 inch above roots (see note)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the radishes in a large skillet and add just enough cold water to cover, about 2½ cups. Add butter, sugar, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the radishes are tender when pricked with a paring knife and the liquid has reduced to a glaze, about 12 minutes. If the radishes are tender but the liquid hasn't reduced sufficiently, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving dish and continue reducing the liquid. Spoon it over the radishes and serve with buttered crusty bread. Makes 6 servings.
Note: If you prefer the more common red radish, which is round, slice it in half vertically.
From Real Simple
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.