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Radishes – Nature’s Fast Food

Need something quick to grow this fall before cold weather shuts down the garden?  Try radishes.  They go from seed to maturity in about 6 weeks.  They sprout in around 3 days, so they’re the perfect crop to grow if you have a short attention span.

Got kids?  Grow radishes.  They are the instant gratification vegetable.  Children can plant them in small containers, watch them sprout, and harvest them before they remember that they don’t like vegetables.

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Cherry Belle and Easter Egg radishes, freshly harvested

In my classes at Santa Monica College, I often start new gardeners out with radishes, since they are easy to grow, have very few pests (just sowbugs really) and, as mentioned above, grow quickly to maturity.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Direct seed (plant outside in the garden where you want them to mature) radishes in fall or spring while the weather is cool.
  • Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep about 1 to 2 inches apart.  If you are doing Square Foot Gardening, plant 16 per square foot.
  • Water daily until the second set of leaves (first set of true leaves) and keep soil moist during the growing season thereafter.

That’s about it!  Harvest when you can see the shoulders of the radish above the soil (see photo below), or run a finger around the base to test for size.  Pick before they get too large, or they will be incredibly spicy.

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Radishes ready to harvest

Varieties

With the limited offerings of grocery stores, one might think that there aren’t too many varieties of radishes available, but just a quick search of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website shows at least 30 options to choose from.  Need help deciding?  Here are three of my favorites:

radishassortment

French Breakfast (left) – these oblong radishes are white on the tips and red up to the stem.  They are an heirloom variety that has been around since 1879.  That’s reason alone to grow them!

Cherry Belle (center) – another great heirloom that produces bright red, mildly flavored radishes with white flesh.

Easter Egg Blend (right) – these aren’t heirlooms, and I don’t even know which varieties are in the mix, but they performed best in my garden this year.  Sowbugs didn’t seem to eat them as much as the others, and they put on such a great show of colors, it’s worth it to dedicate at least a couple square feet for them.

What to do with them?
This is the big question for me.  The obvious thing is to eat them right out of the ground, with a little salt.  Other suggestions include dipping them in hummus, or slicing them onto salads.

Cut a radish into thin strips for sushi, or slice them on bread with butter and salt (you can also mix the butter with a little shallot, dill and parsley, add in a little lemon juice and spread on bread).

If you’re adventurous, try this recipe from a suggestion posted on Jamie Oliver’s site:

Roast radishes with soy and sesame

1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/gas 5.

2. Slice the radishes in half lengthways. Toss the halved radishes with the peanut oil on a large baking sheet.

3. Roast for 25 minutes, turning once or twice, until the radishes are tender and beginning to brown.

4. Drizzle the soy sauce over the roasted radishes and toss with the spring onion.

5. Roast for a further 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.

6. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and coriander, garnish with the rocket and serve.

How do you like to enjoy radishes?  Share your ideas with fellow Gardenerds here.

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