Most people have heard of the radish, but did you know that it was domesticated in pre-Roman times? Radishes have been grown and eaten all over the world for thousands of years and varieties vary by color, size, shape, and flavor. One of the largest is the German Giant Radish, an heirloom open-pollinated Amish variety developed in Germany.
The German Giant (Raphanus sativus) is truly a garden whopper. It matures quickly, in as few as 29 days, and its attractive round scarlet globes grow to 1-3 inches; that's giant! These radishes keep their wonderfully mild flavor and perfect roundness no matter how large they grow. Inside, their white slightly tangy flesh stays firm and crisp, even when large, never becoming spongy, pithy or cracking. Harvest them whenever they reach a preferred size and store them in cool moist conditions.
The German Giant thrives in cool weather and is perfect for a spring and a fall crop. Sow the seeds outdoors in fine stone-free soil in early spring to early summer, when temperatures are mild and all chance of frost has passed. Make successive sowings every two weeks until the summer heat begins. Then plant again as temperatures cool for a fall crop. This radish also makes a fine border plant for slower germinating crops such as carrots and it grows well beside peas, lettuce and spinach. Do not plant near cauliflower or cabbage.
The German Giant is a low-maintenance crop and usually very easy to grow. It prefers well-drained slightly acidic soil with some added compost, but avoid adding excess nitrogen. Too much nitrogen promotes leaf growth instead of the desired root production. The German Giant has few natural pests; water only in the morning, water evenly, and keep mulch and garden debris well back from plants to discourage pill bugs.
Radishes are a great source of Vitamin C; they also provide Vitamin B6, folate, fiber, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and iodine. Radishes are often eaten raw, whole or sliced into a fresh garden salad. They can also be sauteed in butter for 10 minutes and seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled in aluminum foil with butter and garlic cloves till tender, or pickled in a mixture of white wine, vinegar and water with fresh herbs. A delicious radish butter is an easy way to keep the flavor going all year long. Chop into tiny pieces 15 radishes, 2-3 cloves of garlic and favorite fresh herbs such as parsley or oregano. Using a food processor works well. Add the chopped ingredients to one and a half sticks of softened butter. Use fresh on toast or on cooked pasta; or freeze the butter to use later for a mid-winter treat!