They’re radishes, only slightly less boring. Oblong, with a pink base fading to a white tip, occasionally they have a pretty blush of pink inside when sliced in half lengthwise.
Are they truly idiot-proof to grow? Pretty much. A few growing notes: flea beetles will punch holes in the tops, but who cares? They’re a bit hairy for my tastes anyway. Also, if these radishes are faced with especially cloddy clay soil (ahem, not that we would ever have anything like that) about 5% of the crop will look like commas, with ingrained-dirt evidence of scraping against some hard clod or rock. It’s not a big deal, and we eat the commas–if they’re particularly warped/stained, we just don’t sell them at market. (And like I said, it’s only about 5% of the radishes anyway.)
Growing tip: companion-plant them with beets (a double, close-by row), in their own row 2-3 inches away from the beets. Since the radishes are harvested in just a few weeks–compared to beets which take longer to bulb–they don’t interfere with one another, and it saves you the work of preparing a separate bed for the radishes. Also (and I’m not sure if this really helps or not because I haven’t harvested a just-radish bed and a radish-by-the-beets bed at the same time and taste-tested), the beets afford the radishes a modicum of shade by the time they’re bulbing, which might keep them a touch cooler, which might make them a bit less spicy.
French breakfast radishes bonus points:
- Fancy-looking: impress your friends, customers, family, lovers with your refined French palate.
- More heat-tolerant than traditional varieties. Even in hot weather, it ain’t like eating wasabi.
- Lovely internal texture. Something about them is so smooth, it’s almost creamy, but crunchy at the same time.
- Bugs don’t seem to eat the roots.
- The roots very rarely split — far less frequently than the traditional round bulb varieties, which can split when they get too big/wet/hot (I’m not exactly sure what combination of conditions bring it on).
- Goes well with butter, or so we’ve been told by excited customers. Apparently this is how they’re usually eaten in France: you spread butter, take a bite, spread butter, take a bite… how do those French people stay so thin anyway?
- High in vitamin C (as all radishes are) as well as minerals like iron (especially important for the ladies — 11% of all women between 20 and 49 are iron deficient!), sulfur (needed to produce collagen, which keeps your skin looking young), and iodine (necessary for a healthy thyroid).
- Can be added to vegetable juice–especially if you’ve got a cold–to provide a bit of kick, not to mention sinus-clearing, and throat-soothing abilities (thanks to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties).
- Quick to grow (like all radishes) — about three weeks should do it.