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Fall Radishes

Gardeners eager to get their first seeds in the ground in spring often sow a quick crop of radishes, which grow quickly and can be harvested in a matter of weeks. Radishes are a terrific fall crop, too — they’re traditional fare for Octoberfest.

Radishes are grown mainly for their roots, which are most often round but can be as long as a carrot or as fat as a beet. Japanese radishes, often called Daikon radishes, have white roots up to 14 inches long. Grocery stores seldom venture beyond round red radishes and stick-straight Daikons, but there is lots of variety in the radish family: ‘Black Spanish’ radish, an heirloom variety, has dark skin and snow-white flesh; ‘Watermelon’ has round, white roots and a burst of crimson inside. ‘Salad Rose’ is a deep pink radish about the size and shape of a small carrot and great for fall gardens: it is known as a beer radish.

In German beer gardens, long radishes are sliced with a special tool (cooking shops sell them) that makes radish spirals, which are served as a snack with pretzels or as a garnish on a plate with roasted meats. For a snack to go with a frosty mug of beer, you might be served a radish salad or a few bright red round radishes, sliced and sprinkled with cracked pepper and chives.

Octoberfest actually starts in September and lasts for a couple of weeks. If you’re holding your own fest, radishes are accommodating: they keep well in a crisper. They’re delicious no matter how you serve them: crisp and peppery in a salad, sliced thin on a sandwich, or roasted, stir-fried, pickled, or preserved.

All radishes produce abundant greens, which can be sauteed or tossed in salads. They are especially tasty when they’re young. Like radishes themselves, leafy radish tops are often spicy, a bit like mustard greens. Serve with a little polka music on the side.

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • "We all await the prognostication from Punxsutawney Phil tomorrow.
    The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

    February 4, 1841 - from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary..."Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks' nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

    Old World Sayings:

    If Candlemas be fair and bright,
    Winter has another flight.
    If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
    Winter will not come again.
    For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
    So far will the snow swirl until May.
    For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
    So far will the sun shine before May."