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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

  • It's worth the effort it takes to rig supports at planting time for the tall garden plants. Relatively self-reliant standbys such as hollyhocks, cleome, cosmos, and sunflowers are still vulnerable to gusty winds, heavy summer downpours, running kids and dogs or stray flying objects like soccer balls. Tie single-stemmed plants individually. Use green bamboo stakes or equally sturdy sticks long enough to be within six inches of the mature height of the plant after being sunk in the ground 10 or 12 inches. Fasten the stem to the stake with unobtrusive green string or plant ties wrapped first around the stake, then loosely around the stem then back to the stake.