Monday, September 29, 2008

Relishing Radishes

I remember reading a Yahoo-groups post once about how easy it is to garden; the writer said that “if you can grow radishes, you can grow anything,” implying that growing radishes was just about the easiest job on the planet. That writer obviously was not gardening in NW Georgia. Some people in my family really like radishes, so those were among the first veggies I tried to grow. That first year of growing food out in the front yard, the tomatoes did great, as did nearly everything else—except the radishes. I tried Cherry Belles, Sparklers, and Champions, thinking that finding the right variety would solve the problem, before giving up on radishes.

Well, about three years ago I started thinking about growing radishes again, after picking up an old cookbook at a local used-book store. The book was part of a TimeLife series on international cooking; the particular volume I bought was published in 1968 and titled The Cooking of Provincial France. One picture in the book is of bunches and bunches of what appear to be French Breakfast radishes,harvested when very small, with a note about their being eaten with butter and salt. Another picture was of a four year old boy, out on a picnic, eating an open-face butter and radish sandwich. It had never occurred to me to eat radishes that way, even though I eat cucumber sandwiches (both with cream cheese and with butter), and I eat cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and thin slices of carrot for lunch fairly often.

Happily, it is finally easy to grow radishes in my garden. The soil in which I originally gardened had been just about as friable as brick paving--it's a miracle that anything grew--but after years of adding organic matter and years of mulching, the soil has become more radish-friendly. So, now I grow French Breakfast radishes and harvest them small. They grow pretty well for a few weeks in the fall and a few weeks in the spring; otherwise, it is either too hot or too cold. My first fall planting of radishes for this year, from seed sown in late August, is ready to eat, and I have three additional plantings coming up, enough to keep us supplied with small, pungent radishes for a few weeks. This morning, for a midmorning snack, I ate a butter and radish sandwich. It was delicious.

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