Radishes grow so effortlessly even a young child can be a successful radish gardener. This root crop is quick to yield crunchy, nutrient-rich produce, often within a month. So, plant early in the spring and re-seed your radishes throughout the summer season. They do best in cooler conditions, so plant underneath taller, leafy vegetation or in partial shade areas as soon as the danger of frost is past in the spring.
Container gardening is also an option for radishes, due to their small size and relatively simple growing needs. Keep the soil evenly moist, to prevent the roots from becoming woody. Radishes are a flavorful addition to salads when chopped or sliced raw. They're delicious in soups, stews, and stir-fries, as well, adding a spicy piquant flavor.
A popular heirloom variety is the German Giant, which produces baseball-size roots with deep ruby red outsides and crisp white interiors. Their flavor is mild and their crunch is addictive. They grow quickly and are not finicky about soil or water. However, they do best with consistent moisture, especially in high heat.
Another interesting heirloom type is the Pink Beauty, which is a more standard size root that has a crisp white interior and a beautiful soft pink exterior. The Sparkler Radish is half white and half pink. Other varieties of globe-shaped radishes have purple, solid black or solid white exteriors. The White Icicle is solid white with a long, carrot-like shape.
Radishes are best picked before they're past their prime, so follow the instructions that accompany the young plant or on the seed packet to determine days to maturity. Don't let them stay in the ground past their ideal time. Their texture will become spongy and their flavor, too hot. Pull them out of the ground (and they should be easy to remove from the soil with a gentle tug) as soon as the tops of the roots indicate they've reached the right size for their variety. Thinning the crop will promote better growth throughout the summer.
Winter varieties will store for months in a root cellar, but traditional summer salad varieties need to be consumed within a week or so. Remove the tops, and rinse and scrub the roots with a vegetable brush under cold water. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Don't discard the edible tops! Like all cruciferous vegetables, the greens are loaded with nutrition and flavor. Rinse them and store in plastic for up to a few days. Serve the greens mixed into a stir-fry, soup, or stew. The crunchy globes add color and texture to tossed salads, and they can be preserved in the same ways as turnips.
Don't peel summer varieties. Eat the entire root, skin and all. Winter varieties like daikon, with tougher skin, need to be peeled before eating.