Grit Blogs > Of Mice and Mountain Men

A Novice Gardener’s Notes on Growing Radishes

A photo of Allan DouglasFor anyone thinking about getting started as a gardener, or anyone limited to container gardening and wanting to grow something other than flowers, and wondering what plants would be good for a beginner to try, radishes are worth considering.

Good Reasons to Grow Radishes

  • Radishes are excellent in salads, as garnishes, in relish or just for casual nibbling.
  • Radishes are hardy plants that will grow reliably in a variety of soil, requiring little or no fussing with chemical additives or supplements.
  • Radishes have a shallow root system, so deeply tilled soil is not necessary. Radishes will grow well in a planter box making them ideal for apartment dwellers who don‘t have access to a patch of dirt of their own.
  • Radishes are not favored meals by most insects, rabbits or deer, making the use of pesticides unnecessary.
  • Radishes have a very short maturation rate, making it possible to enjoy the ‘fruits of one’s labor’ sooner than most vegetables and be able to plant and harvest several times though the growing season. Staggered planting will result in fresh radishes being available all summer long.
  • Radishes do not require a lot of watering. In fact they do better with just moderate amounts of water.
  • Radishes do not require full sun all day. Six hours of sunlight is enough, so they can be planted next to a house or in boxes on a patio and still do well.

Negatives of Growing Radishes

  • Radishes are difficult to preserve for future use.
  • Uses for fresh radishes are limited; radish soup is not likely to be a family favorite, nor are the kids likely to slice them onto their breakfast cereal or pancakes. Bacon, lettuce and radish sandwiches probably won’t win raves from the bridge club either.

General Tips for Growing Radishes

If you have a corner of a garden that is shaded part of the day, making it difficult to grow most vegetables there, stake this spot for radishes which only require six hours of sunshine per day.

Plant radishes in stages, one section every two weeks. This will produce a small number of radishes coming to maturity all through the summer.

After planting the seeds and the seedlings push up, thin them out so there is 2 to 3 inches between the plants. Plants that are too close together will produce woody bulbs.

Don’t over-water radishes; limit to one watering of about 1” a week. Too much water causes the radish bulbs to split and can cause a black scale to grow on their surface.

Radishes are ready for harvest five to six weeks after seeding. It’s best to harvest Cherry Belle’s once they are the size of a grape. Other species will grow larger. They will become more spicy as they grow larger and will become soft or pulpy if left too long. Harvest while they are crisp for maximum enjoyment.

Radishes are best if enjoyed within a day or two of harvesting, they may be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Again, planting in stages will allow you to harvest what you can use as you go along instead of having the full harvest come out in one huge batch.

Be aware that hot temperatures will concentrate the agent that gives radishes their spicy flavor, in especially hot summers radishes can resemble horseradish root in flavor.

Summary

Radishes are easy to grow, mature rapidly, and add a delightful flavor to your diet, making them an ideal first crop for novice gardeners.

Below are some recipes I found on the internet, along with their source, that will help you preserve a large radish harvest.

From gardenlad

The recipe was originally called Rosy Radish Relish. And when made with regular radishes it does have a rosy hue. But I make it with all sorts of radishes, including white daikon, colored Asians, and other winter radishes. So I just call it

Radish Relish

3 cups stemmed radishes
2 large ribs celery
1 large red onion
2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbls mustard seed
2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 cup vinegar
2 tbls prepared horseradish

Put the radishes, celery and onion through the coarse blade of a grinder, or chop them fiely. Mix with remaining ingredients and allow to stand three hours. Bring to a boil in a large pan and cook ten minutes. Pour into hot jars, leaving half-inch head space. Adjust lids and process 1/2 pints and pints in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

The next recipe was found in "Pleasures of Colonial Cookery," and is dated ca. 1720. Take that with a grain of salt, though, because it's doubtful a pickling recipe from that time would have used so much sugar. Either way, it tastes great.

Pickled Radishes

2 dozen radishes
1 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tbls musard seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp dill weed

Stem radishes. Cut into roses if desired (I usually do)

Mix all other ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until sugar is melted and mixture is clear. Add radishes.

Keep in fridge, or can in a boiling water bath 20 minutes.

One cautionary note: Over time, the radishes get all puckered and wrinkly looking. This does not affect the flavor, but can be off-putting to some people. So you might want to keep the batches small, and use strictly as a refrigerator pickle.

From: Vikki's Verandah

If you want to use mature (and therefore, hot) radishes to make a spicy-radish sauce for your Winter meals, here's how:

  • Harvest radishes about 2 weeks after you normally would. They will be bigger, tougher, and hotter. You could go even longer if you'd like.
  • Wash off the dirt. Do NOT cut off the stems yet but do cut off a bit of the bottom/root end and any bad parts.
  • Holding the stem, slice the radish into thin slices. Throw out the radish stems.
  • Arrange on a dehydrator tray, just barely not touching. When the tray is full, set up to dehydrate.
  • Dehydrate between 108 and 115 degrees F. until slices are very crisp.

Store in a tightly-sealed container (we use small jam canning jars - unprocessed). We tape thick construction paper around the jar, labeled with contents and date. Store in a cool dark place. When ready to use as a powdered hot "spice", take out a couple dried slices, grind into a powder with mortar/pestle or spice grinder, and make "horseradish sauce" as usual. Maybe we should call it "spicey radish sauce". Hmmm.... unusual and delicious!

Thanks for Reading

Thank you for stopping in to read my blog for Grit Magazine, and please come back again. Next time I’ll look at the lost art of Porch Sitting.

Until then, may the best laid plans be yours.

marsha
3/29/2011 7:56:54 AM

Hi Allan, I remember radishes when I was a kid were really hot. Now all the seed packages I read stress that they are for "mild" varieties. Do you happen to know of varieties that are hot - I like them that way! Happy gardening!


allan douglas
10/31/2010 5:17:45 AM

Thanks for stopping by Dave. My primary use for radishes is on green salads, though I'll have to try them in potato salad, that sounds good. I like nibbling on them whole too, but find that I can't do much of that any more or I'll pay for it later. Sure, a patio could serve as a porch. It probably doesn't protect you from rain, but it would still serve the purpose of getting you out to enjoy a beautiful evening.


nebraska dave
9/26/2010 10:15:38 PM

@Allan, what an amazing blog entry on the simple radish. I haven’t grown a garden for decades and am just now ending my third year of come back gardening. I did grow radishes way back when and my favorite was the white icicle radishes. They look similar to a carrot but are while and have a bit of zip in their taste. They were easy to grow and quick to mature. I definitely would recommend them for first time gardeners. I do seem to recall Mom using them in potato salad and always as garnish on the top of many different kinds of salads. It’s a good way to add just a little zip too any lettuce salad. Of course the best way is to pull them up out of the garden, give them a rinse, and start nibbling. I don’t get any better than that except maybe a fresh tomato right off the vine. Does a patio count as a porch? I built a poor man’s patio a couple years ago and spend quite a bit of time on the bench admiring the potted flowers and sipping on cups of coffee. When I’m not building, digging, sawing, or constructing, I’m enjoying the view from the patio and planning the next project. Have a great radish day and I’ll be looking for the pointers on porch sitting.


allan douglas
9/17/2010 4:49:25 PM

Jill, Cindy and Rosalie; thank you for reading and especially for commenting. I'm sorry to have ben so tardy in replying, this week has been filled up with barn repairs and ditch digging. http://allandouglasdesigns.com/blog/2010/09/16/drainage-ditches-to-simplify-our-lives/ Cindy, I'm with your dad - I like to eat raddishes whole as a snack and I like them hot. Radish potato salad sounds WONDERFUL! Jill, maybe some folks are just radish challenged! I wish I could offer some helpful tips, but if you've been gardening long you probably know more about them than I do!


jill woodward
9/15/2010 8:43:45 PM

Everyone always says radishes are the easiest crop to grow- in fact, I remember a story in my first grade reader about a six year old boy who grew a heart shaped plot of radishes for his mother. It made a big impression on me- but almost 50 years later, I still have a hard time growing radishes! I grow all kinds of things with good success, but not radishes! I will keep on trying, though. I've done better in recent years. I will look forward to trying some of these recipes when I do manage to harvest some. They look great!


cindy murphy
9/11/2010 8:37:44 PM

Hi, Allan. My dad always grew radishes in the garden when we here kids; he loved radishes, the hotter, the better. He'd eat them whole, with just a sprinkle of salt. I like them sliced very thinly in a green salad, or there's a killer radish potato salad that I sometimes make. I've never grown radishes though, because using any of the precious little vegetable garden space we have (most of our yard is shade) for something we eat so sparingly seems like a waste. I never thought about planting them in pots though. What a great idea! A few successive pot plantings of radishes might be just the thing next year. Thanks for the tip, Allan.


rosalie learmont
9/10/2010 7:38:42 PM

Hey! How refreshing! Love the recipes. There is an art to growing different radishes just like all the other great vegetables. Keep up the good writing!