The end of spring in my garden is radish time! Short season growing can be difficult and can feel like you’ve been dealt the wrong end of the stick. But short growing veggies like radishes sure do help. Radishes are the ultimate short season vegetable to grow. Needing only about 21 days to harvest most varieties, makes them easy and very fun. This article is all about highlighting this underrated crop and going through how to grow it, how to store it and how to eat it!
Radishes are cool weather root crops. They can be grown throughout spring and right up the first frost date in the fall. They don’t enjoy the height of summer heat, so hold off during those hot months. (I’m sure if you have short seasons like I do then you want all the space you can get for the heat loving plants during that time anyways!)
As a root crop, like carrots, radishes do best in a loose soil full of organic material. If you have very heavy soil, then working in some sand, perlite or peat moss will be helpful. And it’s always a good idea at the beginning of a new season to work in some compost. That way you will boost all the nutrients right off the bat.
Again similar to carrots, it’s best to work the soil to remove and large rocks or clots of dirt. Root crops are impeded by anything that will get in there way.
Though they are cool weather loving crops, radishes do prefer lots of sun. If they are planted in the shade or even shaded by other crops around them, they will put all of their energy into growing leaves. This means that thinning the seedlings is also quite important.
Radishes don’t like their roots being disturbed, so plant them directly in the ground 4-6 weeks before your last frost date. To get multiple harvests throughout the season,plant again every 10 days. Space the seeds about 1” apart and when they’re a week old, thin the seedlings to 2” apart
Even moisture is important to prevent drying out or cracking. A drip irrigation system is helpful for long rows. Otherwise, just be sure to water consistently, ideally, under the foliage. Mulching can help as well to maintain even moisture around the radish roots.
After about 3 weeks, the radishes can be harvested. You can leave them in the ground for a short while longer if you don’t want to pull them all up at once, but be aware that they flavour will be affected if they are left too long. They can also become woody if left in the ground too long.
For short term storage, don’t wash the roots. Remove the leaves, leaving about 1/2cm of green stem coming out the top. Store them in a ziplock bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. They will stay crisp like that for about a week to 10 days.
Alternatively, place a few pieces of damp paper towel in the bottom of a large ziplock bag. Don’t wash the roots, and leave the foliage and small tap root attached. Place the radishes root end down into the ziplock, and seal it up. They can be kept like this for about 3 weeks in the fridge.
For long term storage, it’s ideal to have a cold storage or a room in your house that stays at a constant temperature of about 4-10C with about 90% humidity. The idea here is to mimic the conditions of being underground. Trim your radishes of their leaves, right down to the root this time, and remove the tap root at the bottom. Place a layer of straw at the bottom of a wooden box, then a layer of radishes (make sure they aren’t touching each other) then another layer of straw and so on until the box is nearly full. Then top if off with soil and a lid. Stored like this radishes can be kept for a good few months.
The best part! Both the root and leaves of radishes are edible, and though mine never get this far, I’ve heard that the flowers are yummy too! But here’s a few of my favourite ways to eat radishes.
This is the simplest way I know to really enjoy your radishes. I’ve heard that this derives from France, although there seems to be debate around that point. All I know is that a very lovely German woman introduced this to me, and I look forward to it every year.
1 French Breakfast radish, or other small radish
a Thick slice of Sourdough Bread or Baguette
1 Tbsp good quality Butter, room temperature
a pinch of Flaked Salt, such as Maldon Salt
Slice the radish very thin or shave it with a peeler. Toast the bread to your liking, and spread with the butter. Top with the thin pieces of radish and sprinkle the salt all over. Enjoy as a light evening meal with a crisp side salad and a glass of white wine. Or with a cup of tea in the morning.
Like most root vegetables, radishes roast up very nicely. You can add them to other root veggies to roast all together or all on their own. The hint of bite that most radishes have makes them excellent company for rich meats like lamb, or duck.
1lb Radishes, halved or quartered depending on size
2 Tbso Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, finely diced
2Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Honey
Salat and Fresh Pepper
Heat your oven to 400F. Toss the radishes, olive oil and garlic on a baking sheet. Whisk together the honey and balsamic vinegar, drizzle over the radishes and toss together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your tastes. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, stirring part way through, until starting to brown on the outside, but still soft on the inside.
This recipe is based off of the classic Fried Hunter’s Chicken recipe, aka Poulet Saute Chasseur. A french recipe that honestly is fantastic and deserves a post all its own. (note to self!) But for this one, I’ve made it into a side dish that I love to serve along side roasted new potatoes and anything barbequed!
2 Slices of thick cut, high quality bacon (Pancetta works here as well), diced.
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
2 Cloves of Garlic, finely diced
1 Tbsp Butter
2 cups, thick sliced cremini mushrooms, OR roughly torn wild mushrooms (use a mix if you can)
10 French Breakfast Radishes (or any small variety of radish) Halved or quartered.
2 Sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed.
1 Cup Fresh of Frozen Sweet Peas
Salt & Pepper to taste
Begin by gently frying the bacon in a heavy bottomed skillet. Don’t cook the heck out of it, just a few minutes to render out the fat and begin to colour it. Add the shallots and garlic Fry until fragrant, and beginning to turn golden. Remove the bacon, shallots and garlic from the pan and set aside. Leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
Add the butter, and let it melt. Fry all the mushrooms at once. They will shrink down, and release their water. Let the water evaporate and fry until beginning to turn golden brown. Remove and set aside.
If needed add a touch more fat to the pan. Place the radish pieces into the pan, cut side down and fry mostly undisturbed until the cut side is nice and crispy and golden.
Add everything back to the pan, and stir in the thyme, peas, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. You want to cook just long enough for the peas to soften, and the tastes to meld together. Don’t over cook it to a mushy mess.
This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a guide line. Basically you should add radishes to your salads whenever you have them. They add such an amazing bite, with their peppery crispness, that no salad is ever dull when there are radishes around. Try adding them to a caesar salad, or to a spinach salad alongside some strawberries. They will compliment the sweetness of the berries with their spiciness.
I hope you add radishes to your own garden this year. They are so easy to grow and so simple to keep. Try them with your kids, or in pots on your patio, or both!