Radishes come in a variety of colors and shapes, round, egg-shaped, long and carrot-like; and in multi colors: red, purple, white, pink and even black. Generally, they can be categorized into two main types--summer and winter. Summer radishes are the small ones of bold red, pink, white or purple. Winter radishes are larger, and grow white, green or black--the black ones are quite pungent.
Technically, the radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family that was first grown in Europe in pre-Roman times. The Greek origin of the genus name Raphanus means "quickly appearing" and refers to the speed with which radishes germinate.
Growing period depends on the variety and season. Summer radishes more mature quickly, with several varieties germinating in 3-7 days, and reaching maturity in a few weeks. The crop can be extended by serial plantings a week or so apart. Winter varieties take longer to mature, but keep longer in storage.
For information on radish plant problems, see this UC Davis publication.
The most popular part for eating is the radish root, although the entire plant is edible and the tops can be used as a leaf vegetable, and treated like mustard greens or collard greens.
A few recipes . . . .
In the classic French method, half radishes, dry on a paper towel, and serve with unsalted butter (the best quality you can find) and sea salt.
Braised in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Slice red radishes; add to a pan with a splash of good extra virgin olive oil. Cover and braise over low temperature until tender, around 6-8 minutes. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of sea salt and grinding of fresh pepper. Serve as a side dish to a grilled steak or pork chop.
Sauteed in butter with fennel and fennel seed or pollen
Slice multi-colored radishes, and slice a trimmed small fennel bulb lengthwise the same thickness. Add the fennel to a saute pan with a knob of good butter, and saute, stirring often, for about 5-8 minutes. Add the radishes and cook for another 5-7 minutes. If you've harvested some fennel pollen from the fronds alongside any of our Sonoma County roads, add a good pinch (or if not, a tsp of fennel seeds, lightly crushed). Add a pinch of salt, squeeze of lemon and grinding of pepper.
Salad with greens, sliced pears, and parmigiano reggiano
Thinly slice any or multi-colored radishes. Slice an asian or Bosc pear thinly and cut into radish-sized pieces. Shave parmigiano reggiano into curls with a vegetable peeler. Toss with your favorite vinaigrette with a squeeze of lemon and orange added, and spicy greens such as arugula or watercress.