'Cherry Belle' radishes plucked from the earth.

'Cherry Belle' radishes plucked from the earth.

The radishes should have been the first harvest of this spring season as they have been every year since I started planting them (back in the mists of time).  I can’t tell you how wrong it felt to be eating basil before we’d had any of our traditional spring vegetables – lettuces, arugula, mustards, and radishes – those spring things that crunch and bite and clean out the winter slodginess from our intestines and taste buds!  But we’re back on schedule now after I finished harvesting the first sowing of ‘Cherry Belle’ radishes and we were able to enjoy their juicy crispness of spicy sweetness.

Most people I know don’t like radishes and I think it’s because they’ve never tasted one pulled fresh from the earth.  Like tomatoes, a radish needs to be rushed from the soil to the mouth – otherwise, it seems to lose some of its juiciness, and it tends to become all heat with none of the sweetness to balance the pepper.  And speaking of heat…I tend to do only a couple of early spring sowings because, once the heat of summer starts to hit, radishes become a one-dimensional heat ball and we find ourselves gravitating to other, more summery flavors, from the garden.

Apart from taste, there are several other good reasons to grow radishes: 

  • They’re a cool season crop, meaning that as soon as you can work the soil, you can plant radishes, and for a gardener who’s been banging against the walls all winter, it’s heaven to be able to plant something! 
  • They grow quickly – the ‘Cherry Belle’ matures in about 24 days which is one of the quickest harvests you can get from a vegetable (the lettuces might be neck-in-neck). 
  • They’re ridiculously easy to grow.  Sow them a 1/2″ deep and about 1″ apart in well-draining soil that has had at least 4″ of compost worked in.  Make sure they have full sun (that’s more than 6 hours of direct sun hitting the leaves) and make sure they don’t dry out (or they’ll get woody) but don’t keep them too wet (or they’ll split).  Harvest them when they’re about the size of a large marble.
  • They take up very little space for the flavor impact they deliver.  In a small urban garden, where tough choices have to be made about what you have space for, the radishes make good use of their 1′ x 1′ area.  And, because they grow so quickly and are done in about a month, you can plant something else in their space for the summer (like herbs).

    The radishes position in my 4' x 4' bed (carrots and California poppies are growing in the background).

    The radishes position in my 4' x 4' bed (carrots and California poppies are growing in the background).

Traditional radishes too boring for you?  There’s always the daikon radish – best if you have a loose soil and not the heavy clay I have.  Or how about a fall/winter radish for storage?  I’m going to try growing the ‘Round Black Spanish’ radish this fall, partly because I love the unusual coloration of black skin with white flesh but also because I’d like to see how long it will store – I’ve read that it will keep for a couple of months in the fridge or in a bucket of sand (which means I could be eating radishes in December!).  Stay tuned…

Most of the time I eat my radishes raw – usually in the garden standing beside the radish bed.  Occasionally they’ll show up in a salad but, on the days when I have some fresh, organic butter on hand and a loaf of equally fresh bread, I eat them like the French do – sliced and scattered on a buttered piece of bread, sprinkled lightly with salt.  We’re used to eating radishes raw, maybe because in the spring we crave the texture and flavor of the uncooked after the winter’s slow stews but I’m thinking of doing something a little different with the ‘Black Spanish’ after reading my friend Cindy Black’s post on cooked radishes – I think a braised radish in the fall sounds like just the kind of comfort food I’ll be craving by then.

So here’s to the radish – a humble vegetable with hidden depths.

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Posted Friday, June 11th, 2010 at 7:59 am
Filed Under Category: Growing
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Responses to “The Humble Radish”

mirka

I planted radishes this year because I saw how successful you were last year with them. Raw or sauteed in butter…YUMMY!

Aleta

Great post on the radishes! Must admit, I’ve never been a fan but maybe will consider some unusual varieties now -when we get the kitchen garden designed, up and running, of course.

Kirsten

Aleta, I’m amazed that with your crazy busy schedule you found time to make a comment :-) Any chance that you’re considering adding an outdoor fabric line to your textile collections – perhaps with a vegetal theme? Let me know when you start the kitchen garden and I’ll give you a few suggestions on what I think you might like to grow.

Kirsten

The tiny taste I had of Chris’s radish and chive concoction was lovely! So glad you have discovered the joy of the radish :-)

mirka

PS. I made some soup and pesto with radish leaves and I actually liked it and so did Chris. I looked up some recipes online but at the end just decided to use what I have instead and worked out (to my surprise).

Kirsten

Mirka, I’m intrigued…would you like to share more details?

Aleta

Kitchen garden is about to enter planning stages imminently, now the garage is deconstructed and new floor laid -and don’t worry, I plan to pick your brains clean! While we’re on the subject, do you have any thoughts / opinions on living roofs?

Kirsten

I’m all in favor of living roofs if you have the climate for them – and in England, you do! They require a little more maintenance than just a standard roof though and some additional consideration to the structure of the roof but I’m sure you’ve thought of all that. I’ve always wanted to design a planting scheme for a roof that was similar in decorative appeal to those living walls you’re seeing all over now – broad swathes and curlicues of plants that look like living green mosaics – but I think it would work best on a flat roof that you have easy access to (so you could weed, etc.).

Call me when you want to talk about the new potager and email me lots of pictures – want to do a series of blog posts on it here or are you saving it all up for when you launch your own blog?

Aleta

Well, no reason why we couldn’t post on both blogs, covering different angles. I’ve measured everything now, I just need to map it out on paper. I’ll fire it over once I’ve got it documented…

On the living roofs, we were looking at a pregrown mix of sedums (they do a wildflower mix too, but it needs maintenance). The company says the sedums won’t need any weeding or watering because of the density of the plants, which are ‘drought proof’.

Kirsten

I’m eager to see it!

Sedums are definitely drought-tolerant but I’m wondering how well they do if you have a rainy summer? I am guessing a really quick- and well-draining growing medium is going to be key or they’ll rot.

Vegetable Garden

Thanks for the post. I am always looking for ways to improve my gardening and cooking skills. My family loves eating real food.

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