Types of Radishes
Classified by their shape or by their preferred growing season, radish varieties give the beginning gardener lots of flavor.
Botanical Names: Rhapanus sativus (table radishes), Rhapanus sativus var. longipinnatus (Daikon or Asian varieties), Rhapanus sativus var. caudatus (rat-tailed variety)
In growing radishes it helps to know that there are several main types, and that those types have slightly different growth habits, although all produce flavorful edible roots and nutritious greens. Radish varieties are often classified either by the seasons favored for planting (early, mid-season, late) or by the characteristics of the mature plant.
Radishes can be round, carrot-shaped, or thick and plump, depending on their type. They can be all white, red or pink on the outside and white inside, or unusual in their color combinations. Besides the familiar pink- or red-skinned radishes with white flesh there are all-white radishes, black-skinned radishes with white flesh, and radishes with yellow, pink, or green flesh.
The typical round pink radishes with tangy flavor are known as table radishes, as are some of the long, slender varieties. For the most part they are planted in early spring, from about April 1 through the middle of May. They grow extremely fast, and can often be harvested 20 to 30 days after seeds are planted. These radishes are usually classified in seed catalogs as Early or Spring radishes.
Since they grow best in cool soil they can also be planted in early fall as well – August through September – for a late crop. Examples of fast-growing radishes are Cherry Belle, Sparkler White Tip, and Rudolph.
Fewer varieties of radishes are classified as mid-season. Look for varieties that list a longer period to maturity, say 50 to 60 days, and types that can withstand more heat without becoming tough or bitter, which may be listed as “all season.” A hybrid called Celesta is considered slower to bolt; a variety called Easter Egg contains a mix of maturing periods and so has a longer harvest. Spanish Round, Watermelon, and China Rose all mature in 50 days or more.
Winter or so-called storage radishes mature much more slowly than the others, from 60 to 120 days. They can be planted in late summer or early autumn for harvest in late fall. Some black radishes fall into this category, as do a range of Asian radishes.
The Asian radishes, sometimes called daikon radishes, grow much larger than table radishes, and may weigh up to a pound a piece. The shapes is rounder, elongated, and plump. Their use for pickling as well as cooking makes them a valuable garden vegetable. Asian radish varieties generally take the longest to grow, so may be sown in summer for a fall harvest.
A most unusual radish variety is the rat-tailed radish, which is grown solely for its crunchy and versatile seed pods.