We buy the seed and so and grow them, but how many of us actually like radishes? Not many, if the comments so often heard are anything to go by. Common complaints include: too hot, too woody, too soft in the middle, too quick to run to seed. The list goes on and it’s such a pity given that these first-of-the-season spring vegetables have the potential to be so crisp, mild, and tasty when grown as they should be. If you’re looking for a challenge this growing season, why not reintroduce the radish into your garden, but this time round, grow it to perfection.
The most common mistake when growing radishes is assuming they’re a summer crop. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Radishes are early and late season vegetables which is why they receive such bad press as for too easily running to seed. Radishes will only bolt if the weather is too warm. Sow the seed 2-3 weeks before the last expected frost and at 2-weekly intervals thereafter. Once the temperatures hit 17-18° C, lay off the sowing until early autumn when it’s time to begin again.
Radishes aren’t gluttons where nutrients are concerned. In fact, given too much nitrogen (animal manure or artificial fertilizer) they’ll grow more tops than bottoms. Put your energy into preparing a lump-free bed of well-drained soil enriched with compost and just a scattering of manure.
Watch the water
In soil kept moist but not wet, radishes are very unlikely to become woody, or dry and soft in the centre. Keep moisture levels even and your radishes will be tender and crisp.
No matter how popular well-grown radishes are in your home, there’s still a limit to how many can be used in a given time. Sow a couple of short rows every fortnight or, better still, sow radish seed among other root sowings such as carrot and beetroot. Harvesting the radishes thins the other vegetables and frees up space in garden space for growing else.
Snap to it!
Don’t wait longer than you need to before harvesting radishes. Tops can be deceptively small while, under the soil, the root is ready to eat. Check daily by pushing back the soil from the top of the root. Devour as soon as there’s something to sink your teeth into. The longer you leave a radish in the ground, the hotter it will become.
As with most vegetables, if they’re washed and ready to snack on, they’ll be eaten. Encourage radish eating by washing, trimming and storing in the roots in the fridge in iced water. Come snack time, plonk the container on the table and watch them disappear! Make raddishes even more attractive by slicing them into pretty rosettes (check out here for ideas)
Radishes are delicious eaten raw but just as scrumptious in a stir-fry, a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar and honey, or sautéed in butter and freshly snipped herbs. Kim-chi makers can use both the root and the leaves in their fermenting jar.
It really is time to re-introduce this tasty vegetable to your garden so, this season, you can for a radish and enjoy it!