Any vegetable with a tang, like radishes, makes such a delicious, colourful and crunchy addition to leafy-green salads.
While radishes do far better in the cooler months, they can be grown throughout the year. In summer it’s a good idea to use mulch to keep the roots cool, while in cold winters radishes will need full sun. Should that not be possible, grow the radishes in a container (the size of a window box is ideal) that can be kept in a sheltered, sunny place.
If you enjoy salad on a hot day (and remember that the body needs the minerals and vitamins of leafy greens) consider growing radishes alongside tatsoi, pak choi, mizuna and any of the mustards, as well as lettuce and rocket. Radishes can also be slivered and added to summer stir-fries.
Try something different!
Radish ‘Sparkler’ (scarlet with white tip) and ‘Cherry Belle’ are easily available picture-packet varieties, but not all radishes are red and round. Heirloom seed suppliers generally have stock of ‘Purple Plum’, ’White Icicle’, ‘Hailstone’ (white), ‘Spanish Black’ and ‘Easter Egg’ (a mix of colours) as well as ‘China Rose’, which is an old heirloom variety dating back to the 1840s that is thought to have descended from the wild Asian radish. ‘Spanish Black’ grows to turnip size and is more for medicinal use, to stimulate the production of bile and aid digestion.
Check out www.livingseeds.co.za for more information.
- Sow radishes in situ – they don’t transplant well. Enrich the soil with compost before planting.
- Being such a quick crop, they won’t need fertilising but will benefit from fertile soil.
- If growing in containers, use good-quality, fast-draining potting soil. It can be mixed with some home-made compost.
- Keep the soil moist during germination, which should take place within 5-7 days.
- Sow thickly and use the thinned-out small leaves in salad. They are as tasty as the radish root, but not as peppery.
- Water regularly as radishes need to grow quickly if they are to be plump and crunchy. Uneven or irregular watering can cause radishes to split.
Start sowing now, and repeat sowing every 2-3 weeks for a continued supply of this crunchy vegetable. The flavour should improve as the temperatures drop.
Harvesting and storage
Pull out the radishes when you see the top of the radish starting to push out of the soil. If they are left too long they become woody and unpleasantly pungent. If you plan to store radishes, remove the tops before refrigerating. This keeps them crisp and fresh.
What if radishes develop leaves without roots?
In summer the cause is usually hot weather, which encourages the plant to bolt and try to set seed. In winter the cause could be too little sunlight. They need several hours of direct sunlight for the roots to develop. It could also be that plants have not been thinned out, which can also stunt root development.
Did you know? Radishes are the ultimate slimming vegetable, because they contain lots of fibre, vitamin C and potassium, and almost no calories. Snacking on radishes rather than foods high in fat or sugar helps fight hunger pangs without putting on weight.
1 medium-sized bunch of radishes
1-2 cloves of garlic
250ml Greek yoghurt (full or low fat)
A splash of cream (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh mint
This radish tzatziki can accompany whatever raw vegetables are available in season, or be served with fish and chips.
Top, tail and grate the radishes. Rinse the grated radish in cold water and squeeze to remove any excess starch.
Dry on some kitchen paper, place in a bowl and add the garlic, a little lemon juice, the Greek yogurt and the splash of cream, then stir in the fresh mint and taste.
If preferred, a little sugar, salt and pepper may be added.