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Let them eat radishes! — Sierra Harvest highlights watermelon radishes for the month of March

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union
Not only does the Harvest of the Month program serve several of the shcools in the area, they also offer lunchtime tastings at Dignity Health's Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital cafeteria, through Gold Coutry Services and at Cascade Senior living.
Courtesy of Sierra Harvest

What’s white on the outside, pink in the middle and has a little bite? Watermelon radishes of course.

This month people of all ages across Western Nevada County tasted these seasonal treats, a portion of which were grown by Super Tuber Farm.

The Harvest of the Month program serves not only 21 K-8 schools, but also offers lunchtime tastings in three high schools and at Dignity Health’s Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital cafeteria, through Gold Country Services and now at the Cascade Senior Living. That’s 9,000 people getting the chance to taste, local seasonal produce each month, which is no small feat. Now that’s a lot of radishes.

Cold weather produce

If you aren’t familiar with watermelon radishes, just ask your kid what they taste like.

A mild radish with a colorful pink center, these particular roots are only available in the winter and early spring. They need the cold of the winter to do their thing, so you can only find this variety during a small window of time. However, the more common “Easter Egg style” radishes are easily available year round.

Radishes are an excellent crop for the school and home gardener alike. With most varieties taking just about 30 days to yield a crop, radishes are quick, easy and nutritious. In fact, the scientific name for radish is Raphanus sativus acanthiformis. “Raphanus” means “quickly appearing” in Greek.

What better crop to start with in your garden than the “quickly appearing” radish? Now that spring is officially here — it is the time to get prepared for growing your own food. Luckily this community supports backyard gardening in a number of ways.

Get involved

Sierra Harvest offers the Sierra Gardens program, where they will help you get a thriving garden started where you live. Services run the gamut from rehabbing an old garden that needs help, to starting a brand new site with fencing and irrigation. They provide starts and seeds at the right time, as well as mentorship and quarterly gardening and cooking classes to help you make the most of the harvest.

The program also provides mentorship for two years to ensure success. Many of the Sierra Gardens participants receive scholarship assistance to help with the cost. For more information or to apply for a Sierra Garden today, visit: sierraharvest.org/what-we-do-2/sierra-gardens/.

More of a DIY sort of person? There are many free and low cost classes available to help your garden succeed. Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply hosts free workshops most Saturdays on a variety of topics — ranging from irrigation and cheese making to planting calendars and native species. Check out their full schedule here: groworganic.com/nursery#workshop-stop.

Looking to get your questions answered by a “Master” (or to become one yourself)? Look no further than the Master Gardeners of Nevada County. They also offer free workshops and they even have a hotline you can call to ask your questions. The hotline number is 530-273-0919 and their website is: ncmg.ucanr.org/.

No garden? No problem. Check out Community Supported Agriculture’s (weekly produce boxes), farmer’s markets or Upick Farms in the area. To tune into the local farm scene, visit Nevada County Grown for more information: nevadacountygrown.org/.

There are so many great reasons to plant a garden, you’ll love getting to harvest the freshest most nutritious food, and spending time outside is good for everyone.

Teaching children where their food comes from is vital, and studies show that when kids are involved in growing and harvesting fresh veggies, they’re more likely to eat them.

It’s been said that you have to try a new food 10 times to know if you like it — so we all need all the help we can get. Luckily programs like Sierra Gardens and the Harvest of the Month can make it a little easier on everyone.

Amanda Thibodeau was the director of the Farm to School program for six years and now writes the Harvest of the Month article each month for Sierra Harvest.

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