Usually when we think “radish,” the first image that comes to mind is a small, round, and red little vegetable or a slight variation of that theme. They’re a familiar image gracing our salads or sliced thinly on sandwiches. So it stands to reason that when people think of “unusual” vegetables, the radish isn’t typically on that list — and here’s where the heirloom radishes will beg to differ.
It isn’t the general public’s fault that all they ever see in the produce section of the grocery store are the more common little red, round radishes. Most of the vegetables found at the store are those veggies that were bred for fast growth, easy machine-harvesting, and surviving the long haul – literally. Produce is shipped hundreds of miles to reach grocery stores and radish varieties have to be able to survive the journey and remain intact and attractive when they arrive. Enter the cute, red-and-round hybrid varieties.
Radishes: Not Just Red and Round
If you take a peek at an heirloom seed catalog, you’ll find that they actually come in white, purple, green, and even black. They might be round, grape-shaped, carrot-shaped, or turnip-shaped. Aside from salads, radishes can be eaten whole, grated, diced, sliced. They’re prepared fresh or cooked and they can also be pickled.
While radishes grow quickly and should be harvested quickly – they don’t necessarily have to be consumed quickly. In fact, many radishes are “winter types” that are planted in late summer for winter storage. Before purchasing heirloom radish seeds, be sure that you choose a variety that works within your growing zone. Beyond that — the sky is the limit!
Heirloom Radish Varieties
The home gardener has a huge advantage over commercial growers and grocery stores, as there are tons of radish varieties available today from heirloom seed companies all over the country. Some fabulous varieties include:
Black Spanish Round has firm, white flesh and almost black skin. The roots grow 3″ – 4″ or larger in diameter and have pungent flavor with a distinctive crisp texture. This is a radish for winter storage (daylength – sensitive), so they need to be planted from late in July to late in August.
Blauer Blue is a 4″, German heirloom variety that’s a hard one to find. It has bright purple skin and crisp, white flesh that starts out with a sweet flavor and ends up a bit spicy. This is a winter storing-type radish that should be planted in late July to late August.
Chinese Red Meat is a beautiful radish resembles a watermelon when it’s cut in half. It has 4″, round roots with red flesh hidden by green and white skin. It had a clean, crisp, and sweet flavor which makes it perfect to add to salads and stir – fries. It’s a cool weather lover and does best when it’s planted in the fall.
Cincinnati Market is a dark-red radish grows 6″ long and is tapered at the end. It has a tender and mild taste and is becoming a rare variety.
French Breakfast is an interesting looking, mild-flavored radish variety that doesn’t resemble a radish much at all; more like a blunt – tipped carrot. It’s an oblong – shaped, scarlet and white radish with a white and crisp flesh.
Helios is sweet with pale yellow, white-flesh. It was named for the Greek God of the sun. It’s a favorite oval-shaped, spring radish.
Word of warning: Once gardeners begin to delve into the world of heirloom radishes, it’s a slippery slope into the obsession of all kinds of heirloom vegetable gardening. Neither I, nor The Untrained Housewife, can be held responsible for this unavoidable addiction.
Sliced radish by Miss Karen
French Breakfast radishes by bhamsnadwich
Purple radishes by kthread