There is definitely nothing dreary about this most distinctive vegetable, Raphanus sativus, the Red Meat radish.
Native to China (one of the first vegetables traded along the routes between Europe and Asia), Red Meat radishes, also known as Watermelon and Beauty Heart, are quite different from their daikon relations.
Likely originating in Southeast Asia or Central Asia, radishes have been cultivated for several thousand years. Its propagation for food and medicinal use by the ancient Greeks starting about 2,500 years ago, and continued by Romans, encouraged its spread across new lands.
It’s no wonder the original Chinese named them Xin Li Mei or Shinrimei, meaning “in one’s heart beautiful.” These names also denote the vibrancy of its fuchsia-colored flesh.
Unlike spring radishes, Red Meats are winter radishes that can be sown from mid-August through September.
Tender but crisp, sweet flesh varies from mildly spicy to pungent and peppery. Though known for “watermelon-like” interiors, the exteriors are unique With shoulders of pale green fading to creamy white, Red Meats can grow anywhere from golf ball to soft ball size.
Chefs have had a long-lived love affair with Red Meats since they pair so delightfully with many ingredients and dishes, from salads and stir-fries to sandwiches and appetizer plates. They’re delicious with fennel, tart goat cheeses, cooked eggs, and seafood or sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper.
Both roots and greens provide an excellent source of vitamin C, (this is particularly so when consumed raw), phenolic compounds and fiber.
Radishes contain isothiocyanate. This chemical compound serves as a natural pest repellent. When planted alongside other crops, the release of its pungent isothiocyanate compounds can repel weeds, pests and soil-born pathogens. What a deal from one tasty and unique little plant!
Although it’s a bit of a challenge in our area to sow seed successfully in August, especially during a summer of such searing summer heat, it can be done. Using shade cloth as well as a good coating of mulch on soil kept consistently moist will assist with more successful sprouting. The mulch will also retain needed moisture so watering may be kept to a minimum.
Sow presoaked seeds, (soaking in water overnight helps hard seeds sprout better), about ¼” deep in well amended soil that’s very friable. Radishes prefer lofty and light soil over heavy and hard soil for their temporary home.
Once they’ve sprouted, thin Red Meat radish seedlings to about 3” to 4” apart. This generous spacing will allow them adequate space to grow larger.
Depending on when they’re sown, you could well have your first spectacular radish root crop by summer’s end. And that’s not all. If well protected with a good layer of mulch or straw, your radish roots will not only keep on growing, but will also bring forth even sweeter treats all winter long.
So, if you’re looking for a fiery and sweet sensational addition to your garden plot and serving plate, sow in some Red Meat seed to add some new “Rad” to your every dish.
Red Meat Radish Salad
3 Red Meat radishes, with roots removed and sliced thin
1 large seedless-type cucumber
4 cups arugula
4 oz herbed goat cheese
1/3 cup pistachio nuts
Lemon vinaigrette (best made 24 hours ahead)
Juice and zest from one organic lemon
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon honey, agave nectar or real maple syrup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons minced tarragon (fresh or dried)
Put all ingredients in a pint jar with lid and shake until well blended. Refrigerate until needed.
On individual salad plates, mound arugula, then arrange slices of radish and cucumber on top. Sprinkle goat cheese and pistachio nuts over each salad. Drizzle with lemon vinaigrette and serve.
Makes 4 servings.