Three or four weeks after a radish seed is planted, its leaves, with their smooth topsides and coarse undersides, will have appeared, and its root will have swelled into a small, red globe. Certain strains of radish, such as 'D'Avignon' and 'Easter Egg,' will elongate into more cylindrical shapes. Depending on their variety, radishes range in color from red to pink, purple, white, yellow, or black. Their size also varies, as does their flavor -- from mild and sweet to pungent and biting. Radishes are easy to grow and mature quickly, and they're versatile in the kitchen.
It is generally believed that the radish originated some three thousand years ago in China and was subsequently exported to Europe, North America, and the Mediterranean. Radishes do best when they're planted during a temperate season, and they prefer climates that provide a good measure of sun and heat during the day with cooler temperatures at night. However, breeding has produced strains that flourish during different seasons and climates.
Planting the seeds is relatively simple; they should be sown in cultivated soil in a sunny, open area, set into the ground about a half inch deep. They require less space than other garden vegetables: The rows can be tilled as close as four inches apart, and seedlings should be thinned to two to three inches apart. It's important to pick radishes as soon as they mature; leaving them in the soil for too long can toughen their texture and split their sides.
Both the radish and its tender young greens can be used in cooking. Raw radishes work well served alone with some salt or butter, on sandwiches, or cut up in salads. They can also be sauteed and eaten as side dishes or used in a variety of recipes, including soups.