Beets, Carrots & Radishes
Root vegetables are my favorite to grow, and I grow ALOT of them:) I love the surprise of pulling a vibrant radish or beet out of the garden. I am in awe of how stunning the colors can be, fresh from the garden soil. Roots are also perfect to grow as they can be harvested at almost any growth stage - young, crisp beets and carrots are perfect in spring, while full-sized, earthly and rich roots make excellent fall and winter dishes. Root vegetables also benefit from a touch a frost, making their earthly flavor a touch sweeter. This makes them perfect to grow here in Minnesota, as our growing season is so short, and frost is bound to happen early in the fall.
Radishes are the epitome of a spring crop to me. They are one of the firs things I plant, and they come popping up before anything else. In the past I have grown the classic round red radish and French Breakfast Radishes. Side note, the above photo is of a french breakfast radish I planted in the fall, and it turned PURPLE! No, it is not photoshopped, that is the color! So kind of excited for the random purple radish this year.
This season I am also growing Garden Party Five Color Radish Mix. I am looking forward to the surprise of pulling random colored radishes out of the garden all spring! For all my spring radishes, I plant them in my zucchini patch along with cut-and-come-again lettuce and mustard greens. I will surround the zucchini plant with these veggies in early spring, before the zucchini develops to its full size in the summer heat.
Winter radishes are the exception to the spring planting, as they benefit from sowing seeds in the heat of summer, then as the weather gets cooler, the root will fatten up. I enjoy planting Watermelon Radishes, as they have light green skins and bright pink insides - just like a watermelon! They are also huge, about as big around as a medium-sized beet! This season I will plant watermelon radishes as late summer succession planting within the onion bed, after the onions have been harvested in late July. I have noticed that when the weather is hot, these radishes are spicy, but once the weather cools, their flavor mellows and they get lightly sweet. They are stunning in salads, or just on their own with a good dip (or a good squeeze of ranch. Let's be real.)
Carrots are my favorite roots of all. Their long, vibrant roots are so fun to pull, and so fun to cook with. I am pretty sure that a fresh pulled carrot is one of my all time favorite smells (there I go, smelling my garden again...) It has a sharp, fresh, sweet, earthy smell unlike anything else (I might need to invent a line of garden-scented candles...). This year, I am growing a mix of carrots that have different lengths of time needed to grow, so carrots can be harvested all summer, and even winter! I am growing Sunshine Mix Carrots and Romeo Carrots (Romeo carrots are actually round, like radishes! so excited!) to be harvested throughout the summer, as spring and early summer carrots are so crisp and good fresh (with the before mentioned ranch), lightly sautéd with dill or roasted with a good drizzle of olive oil. I plant carrots in their own section of the garden, and this year I am planning on planting them as a succession planting in the garlic patch after the garlic has been pulled in late July.
I am also going to try and grow a patch of Kind Midas Carrots to over winter. What is this magic you may ask? If you can be patient, leave a patch of carrots in the garden all season, so they grow to full size. Before any hard frosts, cover your carrots with 1-2 feet of fall leaves or straw, and secure it with a floating row cover (the row cover will also help when lifting up snow in the winter). Now as the temperatures drop to freezing, the starch in the carrots will break down into sugar, increasing the sweetness of the carrots. Then, any time you need carrots in the winter, head out to the garden and pull what you need! I am pretty excited about the idea of harvesting from the garden in the dead of winter. I will keep you posted on how it goes!
Beets are a close second as far as my favorite vegetables to grow. They are great to grow because you basically get a two-for-one, as you can eat both the greens and the roots of the plant. I use beet greens just like I would use spinach or kale within soups. The greens have a light sweet beet flavor, and are succulent and tender, which adds a nice depth of flavor and texture to a soup. Beets are also great as they can be harvested at any point during the growing season, as early beets are light and a touch sweet, and late season beets that have been touched with frost are earthy and richly sweet. Note that beets should be harvested after a few light frosts, not left too long in the winter as the roots can turn to mush. This year, I am growing Golden Beets and Sweet Merlin Beets, both of which can be harvested young, or grown in the bed all season. I have reserved beets their own spot, as well as succession planting them in the garlic patch along with the carrots in late July.
One new addition to the garden this year is Celeriac. This nobby, weird looking vegetable is one of my fall and winter favorites. Celeriac, or celery root is like a potato and celery stalk in one. It has the texture of a potato, and a light, sweet celery flavor. I love adding them to mashed potatoes, or replacing some of the potatoes in winter soups. It needs to be started indoors, and will take all season to grow.