Grow it yourself: Oriental radishes

Two weeks ago, I wrote about European radishes but considering how near our Asian neighbours are, we have been slow to catch on to the oriental varieties. Only the long white Daikon type is now sold widely in this country. According to the Kings’ seed catalogue, over 25% of vegetable production in Japan is radish of the Oriental types. These are larger growing varieties and therefore take somewhat longer to mature but they are still speedy at a two month turnaround from sowing to harvest. Being larger, they are somewhat easier to handle for the cooking process (certainly when it comes to grating into soups and casseroles) and perhaps more akin to a sophisticated turnip substitute for warmer areas where that crop is not suitable.

Oriental radishes are the same botanical family as more common European ones so they are a brassica and don’t want too much nitrogen in the soil. But being considerably larger root vegetables, they will need conditions which are very well cultivated and well drained to a considerable depth. A radish that is 40cm long is not going to like big clods of soil or compacted earth as it stretches downwards. If you can’t get that depth of friable soil, go for one of the squatter, rounder selections or shorter carrot-types rather than the traditional long white daikon. There are some coloured alternatives available as well.

Radish seed is very small and is scattered along the row and covered lightly with soil. You will have to thin after germination. These thinnings are edible so use them in salads or stirfries. Final spacings will depend on the variety you have chosen. Long thin ones will need to be around 10cm spacings, rounder, fatter ones require more room.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.