Radishes

But would you like to know what the biggest secret in the gardening world is? It’s that radishes are difficult to grow. Yes, the one thing we think is the easiest to grow is, in fact, one of the most difficult. So if you’ve ever declared yourself the world’s worst gardener because you couldn’t even grow radishes, I’d like you to rethink your position and possibly reposition your radish bed.

In the right conditions radishes are easy to grow, but under the wrong conditions even the most accomplished gardener will produce nothing more than a profusion of leaves attached to a spindly, sickly, thin radish root. It’s a sad sight, indeed.

So what are the right conditions for radishes?


Optimal Radish Conditions


  • Radishes prefer cool weather so planting them in spring or fall will produce the best results. (Planting radishes in the dead heat of summer is usually a waste of time and radish seed.)

  • To help mimic cooler weather conditions, plant radishes where they’ll be in shade during the hot afternoon sun. (Radishes need lots of sun to grow, so make sure they aren’t in shade the whole day.)

  • Plant your radish seeds deeper than you think you should. Around 1” deep is perfect.

  • Grow the right radish variety. Some do better in warmer conditions. The French Breakfast radish is one of the most heat tolerant.

  • Radishes are heavy feeders, so make sure you top dress with compost.


Okay, so all that means is radishes like it cool and they like to be fed. Most people recommend you plant radishes a couple of inches apart and this works just fine. But if you want to have a little more fun with your radish planting (and really, who doesn’t?), you can do what I do every year and plant them in clumps.

Multicolored radishes

Planting five or six different radish seeds together in a bunch will produce a bunch of multicolored radishes you can pull all at once. It’s a multicolored bouquet of spicy, crunchy, delights. I realize my language gets a little flowery when describing radishes, but I really do love them.

Every bite of a radish I take today brings me back to the kitchen table in the house where I grew up. There I am sitting on a worn, colonial maple chair, feet dangling, pushing a crisp red radish into a bowl of salt. In my other hand is a piece of buttered white bread so soft it would stick to your teeth. That's how my mother raised me – to completely obliterate the taste of anything with gobs of salt.

And there began my love affair with radishes. Big or small, I love them all. Speaking of which, planting radishes in clumps will produce smaller radishes than planting seeds an inch or two apart. So if massive radishes are your goal, skip the bunch plantings.

The easiest way to get a group of multicolored radishes is to buy a packet of Easter Egg radishes. It’s just a packet of radishes that are all different varieties and colors – white, pink, purple and red. You can also buy different colored radishes individually. This will cost more, but you’ll know exactly what you’re planting in each bunch. One white, one red, two pink and so on... With the packet of Easter Egg radishes, it’s more difficult to tell which colors each bunch will have unless you happen to be an expert at correlating radish seeds with radish color.

And as I said before, in the world of gardening there’s really no such thing as a true expert. At best there are people who have it halfway figured out.

Radishes

Growing Radishes


Start planting radishes outside four to six weeks before the last frost into soil that’s been top dressed with compost. Plant every two weeks until summer to have a succession of radishes. Begin again in late summer.

Pick radishes when they’re the size you like but don’t leave them in the ground too long or they’ll crack and go woody.


Fun Radish Fact


An easy way to test your compost to see if it’s ready to use on your garden is to plant a few radish seeds in it. If they grow with nice green leaves, your compost is ready for use. If the leaves are yellow, your compost hasn’t finished doing its thing yet.


Eat It All


Every part of the radish is edible, not just the root.

  • Cook the greens or use them in salads.

  • If you allow your radishes to bolt and go to seed, the long, thin seed pods are crunchy, spicy and delicious. Eat them raw just as you would a radish, in salads or pickled.

  • The immature seeds in the seed pods can be sprinkled on salads or sautéed greens.

Storing radishes

Variety Is the Spice of … Radishes


Radishes are no longer the standard red you’re used to seeing in the grocery store. These are some of my favorites.

Ping Pong: A white, perfectly round radish.

French Breakfast: Not the typical round radish, these elongated radishes are red with a white tip and their taste is on the mild side. They are the easiest to grow and my favorite.

Raxe: The standard big, round, red radish.

Amethyst: A purple skinned, white-centered radish. I’ve found they’re stronger than other radishes and mighty delicious.

Watermelon: These are sometimes called different things but when you slice them, they look like a slice of watermelon with a green rind, transitioning to white and finally a bright pink centre. For whatever reason, I’ve found these are weirdly difficult to grow.

Pink Beauty: A bright-pink, round radish.


Storing Radishes


If I’m at my garden away from my house, I bring a jar of water with me to store the radishes in when I pick them. This helps keep them firm.

At home, cut off the tops and store them in an airtight container. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them.

Store the actual radish, with the root and greens removed, in an airtight container or in a bowl of water in the fridge.

Storing radishes

Finally, it’s been reported that you can cook radishes. In fact, I’ve done it. Most magazines say they’re delicious roasted. I did not find that to be the case. Roasting them removed all of the things I love about radishes – the crispness, crunch and spice. Maybe those people who like roasted radishes don’t actually like radishes. As far as I’m concerned, cooking them is punishment for both the radish and the eater of it.

But I’m no expert.

Text and photos by Karen Bertelsen

Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. Seven years ago she started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff (www.theartofdoingstuff.com) as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.

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