I still associate radishes with encouraging young children to garden. The little red globes of the European radish grow so rapidly that you can be eating them in just over three weeks which gives a wonderfully quick result, even if the flavour may not be to littlies’ taste. If you haven’t had a look at radishes in recent years, you may be surprised by the range now available. There are long thin ones, large and small globed ones and colours range through reds, pinks, whites and bicolours to pure gold (Radish Zlata from Poland) and the Black Spanish Radishes which are black skinned with white flesh. And that is without even considering the oriental radish varieties.
The common garden radish has a bit of a split personality. It is almost exclusively served as a salad vegetable in this country though there is no reason why you cannot cook with it, in a similar manner to other root vegetables, albeit being of rather small stature. However it is a brassica which explains why it is better as a cool season crop. In mild areas, radishes can be grown right through winter. Yet it is a root crop, unlike most brassicas, so it does not want soils rich in nitrogen which encourage too much leafy top growth at the expense of the roots.
Sow seed directly into finely tilled soil and cover lightly to a depth of a centimetre. They will need to be thinned out after germination to allow room for the roots to develop. Pick them young. They soon get woody and too peppery so are best pulled, washed and stored in the fridge if you have too many. And you can always try Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s unlikely fresh radish dish – serve with softened but not melted butter and lashings of salt. No Heart Foundation tick for that one.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.