One of the easiest vegetables to grow is the radish. With its quick germination and short cultivation time, the radish is also a great crop to get your children interested in gardening. It’s a colorful and versatile crop that can be grown during several seasons of the year. Because I just harvested my first radishes from my winter planting, I chose to spotlight the radish today.
The scientific name for radish is Raphanus Sativus, which comes from the Greek word raphanus, meaning “quickly appearing.” The common name, radish, comes from the Latin word radix, meaning root. The crop was domesticated in Europe before the Roman Empire, and it was a well-established crop in Greece and Rome.
The radish comes in many varieties, ranging in colors, sizes, and duration of cultivation. The most common radish is the Red Globe, which is sold in most grocery stores. The Easter Egg radish, which I started harvesting today, is a package of several types of small globe radishes in various colors. Here’s what I harvested today:
My favorite variety is the Watermelon radish. It is a large radish, about the size of a turnip, and looks like a sliced watermelon when cut. Here are some pictures from my fall harvest.
Radishes are very nutritional. They are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. The radish leaves are also edible and, when compared to the root, contain more calcium and protein, as well as six times the vitamin C. Radishes are also a great source of fiber with very few calories – only 20 calories per cup of sliced red radishes!
Generally a cool season crop, radishes are a vegetable for every garden in Zones 2-10. Plant seed under full sun in light, loamy, neutral (pH=6.5-7.0) soil. Planting depth depends on the size of the variety, so read your seed packet before planting.
While researching details for this article, I discovered that radishes are a great companion crop to ward against pests because they serve as a trap for beetles and other crop-eating insects. The insects eat the leaves but leave the roots unharmed, so the radishes will produce for you while saving your other crops.
Plant radishes – especially White Icicle radishes – around squash. The squash borer – an insect that destroyed my summer and winter squash last summer – will be drawn to the radishes rather than the squash. To ward against corn borers, plant radishes around your corn and allow them to bolt and go to seed. (You won’t be able to eat these radishes, but it’s a small price to pay for good ears of corn.) You can also plant radishes around lettuce and cucumbers to draw away leaf-eating bugs. Again, the root will be unharmed and can still be eaten. Just keep planting the radishes! (Look for summer varieties that are slower to bolt.) I will be ordering some extra radish seed, including White Icicle (a variety I’ve never tried), and planting them around my squash, cucumbers, and corn this spring! I’ll let you know how it works!
One note: do not plant radishes among other brassicas like kale, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, etc. because the growth of the radish will be inhibited.
Radishes germinate very quickly, in as a little as 3 days for some varieties. Maturing in 25-60 days, they vary in size from one inch in diameter (the small globe varieties), to 3-4″ in diameter (like the Watermelon radish), to 8-14″ long (like the daikon radish). Your seed packet will tell you the days to maturity as well as the size of the radish.
Harvest when the root reaches edible size. Don’t let them remain in the ground too long past maturity else they will become spongy and bolt. Winter varieties can be harvested at a larger size because they mature more slowly and aren’t in danger of bolting so quickly due to the cooler temperatures. When ready to harvest, most radishes will bulge through the ground.
FROM GARDEN TO KITCHEN:
Everybody knows that raw radishes make a crisp, colorful, peppery addition to salads. Another reason I love the watermelon radish so much is how it looks among a bowl of salad greens!
But did you know that radishes are also good roasted or steamed with butter? Cooking them makes them tender and sweet. The greens can also be eaten sauteed or in a winter soup.
Here is this Italian’s favorite way to cook all greens, including radish greens:
Sauteed Radish Greens
Saute several cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil at medium heat. If you like, add some dried red pepper flakes.
When the garlic begins to turn brown, add your cut radish greens. Stir well to cover the greens with the olive oil. Saute until the greens become limp. Serve immediately.
Note: Greens have a lot of moisture in them, so the oil will spit at you when you put the greens in. Please be careful!
Here are some great online recipes, too:
If you harvest so many radishes at one time that you can’t eat them all in a day or two, they store very well in the fridge, sealed in an airtight plastic baggie. As long as you keep them cool and airtight, they’ll stay crisp for a long time. For long term storage, do not freeze or dehydrate. They are best pickled.
It’s not yet spring, but you can enjoy a harvest, one radish at a time.