Starting in spring, the market is full of the radishes' red globes. Just seeing one, I can almost hear the sound of the crisp bite and can't resist, I need to buy some! But this year I haven't been to the market for radishes because I am growing them in my own garden, although I never would have thought I'd do that.
This spring I started a new vegetable garden and radishes were on top of the list. I bought seeds and sowed them, then waited for the sprouts to appear. Everyone says the radishes are quick and easy growers, you just don't need to do anything, only to water. They can be sown in between the lines of other crops, because they grow faster and are pulled out when harvested. Best month to sow the radishes is March, as soon as the snow melts and the ground gets dry. They can grow even in the shadows.
Radishes are ready to be harvested when they mature, which is two weeks after they pop up from seeds. Mine weren't like that, maybe because this year was colder than usual; yet, they need cold to grow well. When the heat comes, the radishes mature, their stems grow into stalks, blooms appear and the roots become woody.
The red radishes (Raphanus sativus), also called European radishes, or month radishes (because they need a month to grow) are a species of edible root vegetables from the Brassicaceae family, same as turnip and mustard. Their Latin name comes from the Latin "raphanus" meaning "quickly appearing", after their fast germination. The common name radish comes from the Latin "radix" which means root. They are a cool season vegetable, mostly grown in spring and late fall, but other species are grown in summer and even in winter. Most common varieties grown in spring are the red globes 'Cherry Belle', 'Plum purple' and 'Easter Eggs'. and also the elongated 'Red King' and 'French Breakfast'. Radishes are known to have medicinal properties, especially for healing gallbladder and gallstones pain.
My radishes matured in about a month after sowing, which was normal. First I fertilized the soil with organic compost, sowed the seeds and then I started to water a lot, everyday. I made a mistake by sowing too many seeds, so the radishes grew too crowded. This might have been the real reason for which they didn't grow so well and so quickly, as they should. I should have thinned the seedlings; next time I'll know better!
A friend of mine, who is more experienced with veggies, told me that the top part of the radish is poking up through the soil as they grow bigger. When they are about an inch accross they are ready to be harvested. Since I never divided them at first, I did that by pulling the ripe ones out as they poked up; this way the smaller radishes had more space to grow.
I harvested way too many radishes for my family. We ate radishes every day for two weeks and I also gave them all out. Tough, woody skin is the sign that it is too warm outside and the radishes are "getting old", meaning they are starting to mature and bloom, which alters their taste and makes them spicier. I pulled all but a few which were still small. I needed some of them to grow and make seeds for my next crop, so I was happy to let them. The butterflies and bees loved their flowers, while snails loved the seedpods - this I disliked very much! I had two more varieties of radish in my garden, besides the round 'Cherry Belle'. They were 'Plum Purple' and 'Red King'. The 'Cherry Belle' have white flowers, while the 'Plum Purple' have pink flowers. They also have different seedpods, green for 'Cherry Belle' and reddish for 'Plum Purple'.
The radish pods are called siliques and have a funny shape. The seeds are edible and can be used as a spicy addition to salads; although you might need some time to get enough of them out of the pods! I had to find the time to do that because I have too many plants with pods, far too many for my needs.
It took two months for the pods to dry - from May to July - and they still aren't all dried. I opened a few pods and some seeds were still green. I thought I could sow one and see if it sprouts. I had such a pleasant surprise to see a small seedling after only 2 days, so it worked and that meant I had a clear road for harvesting the radish seeds. I couldn't be happier ! I needed that part of the veggie garden for sowing sweet peas.
I definitely let too many plants to grow and set seeds. I'll have plenty of seeds for sowing radishes from now on, and I gave some to my friends, too. It has been a great experience that I will be able to repeat starting in September, when I will sow more radish seeds for the fall. This time I'll have to remember to sow them two inches apart, so the radishes will grow bigger this time.
About Adina Dosan
I'm a Romanian plants and pets addicted, always happy to share my experience.