Easy to grow, radishes deserve to be celebrated beyond the status of a plate decoration. They add zest to salad dressings and cooked dishes. Yum!

KODIAK — Take a walk in your garden. See what’s ready to harvest. Then pick two things that you’ve never considered eating together…

If that’s a stretch, I’ll give you a couple examples: Salmonberries and cress, and strawberries and radishes. Strawberries growing in containers on the front deck (to keep them out of harm’s way from slugs) and radishes thriving in a raised bed in the hoophouse.

Now you’d think, ick, strawberries and radishes together, co-habitating in the same bowl? Well, why not. You never know stuff until you try.

So here are a couple salad recipes I’ve been working with:

Strawberry and Radish Salad with Balsamic

Vinegar and Cress

This recipe also works with fresh salmonberries…

• 2 cups strawberries

• 2 cups radishes

• 2 Tbl Balsamic vinegar

• 2 Tbl olive oil

• Handful of cress or parsley

• Pinch of salt

Trim the stems off the strawberries and radishes. Cut strawberries into quarters and slice or quarter the radishes. Mix the balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a large bowl. Plop in the radishes and strawberries and toss. Add the cress and salt and toss again. Serve right away.

Strawberry-Radish Salad

• 2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered

• 2 oranges, peeled and sectioned

• 6 radishes, sliced thin

• 1/2 cup minced green onions or chives

• 4 teaspoons lemon juice

• 1 Tbl sugar

• Mixed salad greens

• Your favorite salad dressing

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, orange sections, radishes, green onions, lemon juice, and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. In a large bowl, toss the greens with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Arrange greens mixture on plates or single platter and spoon strawberry mixture on top of salad greens. Serve with a smile.

A word about radishes…

I’ve always heard that if you want to introduce vegetable gardening to a child, grow radishes. But something is lost (besides our childhood wonderment) as we turn into adults. Radishes aren’t cool, aren’t as accepted anymore, as if we’ve forgotten the goodness of its color and crunch.

Yes, radishes still add a wonderful zest to vegetable salads, even salad dressings when they’re whipped up in a blender or food processor.

The beauty of radishes is not just their bright color--which, by the way, makes them easy to spot when a child is on a garden treasure hunt--but they mature quickly, some in as little as 4 to 6 weeks.

The numerous radish varieties also have tempting names like Comet, Cherry Belle, and White Icicle, and colors that vary from white to scarlet, read, and yellow. But my favorite has to be Amethyst, which glows a rich purple.

Radishes can be enjoyed all summer, just sow seeds every two weeks. How deep? About a half inch deep and in rows 4 to 6 inches apart. Try to give them rich, somewhat sandy or fluffy soil. Like all roots crops, fluffy soil is a must as they don’t like tough soil any more than you’d like to wear tight shoes. Keep the soil evenly moist.

As they grow, thin seedlings to 2 inches apart (3 to 4 inches for the larger varieties). I enjoy thinning seedlings. It’s sort of a Zen activity, making room for growth, expansion, maturity. Without space, we feel cramped and can’t develop into our full potential, who we really are.

As for pests, watch out. Slugs might nibble on the leaves or scar the surface, but the worst pest is the cabbage, or root, maggots. Root maggots, by the way, are considered the worst pest in Alaska’s home and commercial gardens.

How do you know when to harvest a radish?

Pull radishes as soon as the roots are the size of a golf ball. Much bigger and radishes become compost material: cracked, tough and woody.

Radishes are members of the cabbage family, a native of western Asia. Like the turnip it’s mainly a swollen lower stem, and has been shaped by human selection into many distinctive forms and striking colors, (for example, the Christmas radish: green on the outside and red on the inside.

What makes a radish so peppery?

The pungency you taste is created by an enzyme reaction that forms a volatile mustard oil. The enzyme is found mostly at the surface of the radish, so peeling will help moderate the hot pepperiness.

To eat a radish, there’s more to it than grabbing a salt shaker, which, when I was growing up, stymied my tasted for radishes. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I learned to appreciate the oft-forgotten root.

Ever cooked a radish? Try this recipe:

Halibut Ceviche with

Radishes and Peas

• 3/4 cup each rice vinegar and water (or 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 1/2 cup water)

• 2 Tbl minced crystallized ginger

• 1/2 tsp coriander seed

• 1 pound boned and skinned halibut, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

• 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed

• 1 cup sliced red radishes

In a 10 to 12-inch frying pan over medium to high heat, bring vinegar, water, ginger and coriander to boiling. Add fish; reduce heat, cover and simmer until opaque but still moist-looking, which should only take about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer fish to a bowl. Boil liquid until it is reduced to 1 cup; pour over fish and chill until cool (1 to 8 hours).

Stir in peas and radish slices. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into 4 or 6 shallow soup bowls; distribute liquid among dishes.

Next time you stroll around your garden, think of matching veggies and fruits; sort of like pairing wine. And drop me a note. I’d love to learn what you come up with.

If you have a garden question or would like to be on my special mailing list, send me an email to mygarden@alaska.net or find me on Facebook, Instagram or visit my blog at marionowenalaska.com.

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