Radishes (Raphanus sativus), with their zingy flavor and firm texture, are a vegetable I have grown to love. This member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae (Mustard) family, which also includes garden favorites such as Romanesco and Cauliflower, come in many varieties. The varieties of radishes are classified by their planting times (early, mid, or late), their root shape (flat, oblong, round, half-long and long), and their color.
There are some specific varieties to make note of in the radish world. Easter egg radishes are easy to spot as they don’t just come in the traditional reddish color of a radish, but in whites, pinks, and purples. There are also other varieties of radishes that come in black, green, and some that even resemble a watermelon.
Another notable radish is the Japanese Daikon. This radish is white in color and very long, with some even reaching over a foot. The Daikon is known as an oilseed radish. These are becoming progressively popular as a cover crop and can improve soil conditions, as well as create a nice place for early planted vegetables the following spring. Plus, Daikons go great in a batch of kimchi!
Radishes are thought to have originated in Southeast Asia due to the fact that this the only area that has wild varieties growing in it. The cultivation of different varieties is thought to have occurred in India, central China, and Central Asia. Radishes were historically recorded by the 3rd century BCE and show up in Chinese and Egyptian culture. As the millennium rolled around the Greeks and Romans were growing several varieties of the radish. Later the crop spread through Europe and was one of the earliest crops introduced into the Americas.
This cool season vegetable is easy to grow but prefers to steer clear of the summer heat. It’s best to plant them 4 weeks prior to the last expected frost date in your area if you are doing a spring planting. If you decide to do a fall planting, sow radishes in late summer or early fall. The nice thing about radishes is that they can be planted later than other root vegetables and you can plant every 2-3 weeks in the cool months to allow for a continuous harvest.
As you plant your radishes sow the seeds approximately 1” deep and 1” apart. Then thin your radishes to 2” apart if they seem crowded, as crowded radishes don’t grow well. Another thing that creates a poor crop is too much shade. Make sure you plant radishes in full sun, otherwise you will get large leaves and little root development. Water your crop consistently to keep the soil moist, but don’t allow your radishes to become waterlogged. Lack of water, just as excessive heat does, will cause your radishes to bolt prematurely.
Just like most garden produce, radishes are susceptible to pests and disease. One pest that can afflict your radishes is the cabbage root maggot. These pesky pests live in and under the soil and are difficult to spot. Your best bet at combating them is prevention. Rotating your radishes, tilling your garden between seasons, keeping your garden neat and tidy, and even practicing later season planting techniques can help prevent an infestation. Some nurseries offer nematode control. Check with a local one in your area to see if you can incorporate them into your soil foodweb. Nurseries may also offer sticky traps to place in your garden to trap the adults before they lay eggs. Just make sure nothing in the traps is toxic.
Harvesting and Storing
As soon as your radishes are mature, which can be 3-4 weeks after planting, pull up your root vegetables, otherwise leaving them in the ground can cause deterioration. Once harvested, cut off the tops and wash and dry the tops thoroughly if you plan to use them. Both the root and the greens can be used and stored in the refrigerator. However, greens usually only last 2-3 days, but the root can last up to one week. I find it best to either leave the root portion unwashed and stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag until ready to use or to wash them and keep them in a glass container filled with water.
After harvest is the time to enjoy this wonderful root vegetable. If you’re wondering if radishes have any health benefits, they indeed do. In one cup (116 grams) serving of radishes, you will be provided 19 calories, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 4 grams of carbohydrates (of which 2 grams is dietary fiber). Radishes are an excellent source of Vitamin C and they also provide Vitamins K-1 and all the B’s (except B-12) and the minerals calcium, copper, non-heme iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
Radishes are also a good source of phytochemical compounds. These compounds include sulforaphane from the isothiocyanate group of organosulfur compounds. Found in other mustard family vegetables, sulforaphane has cancer prevention and anti-inflammatory properties. Radishes also possess additional phytochemicals including indole-3-carbinol which also works to prevent cancer, along with zeaxanthin and lutein. These phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and help detoxify the body.
To enjoy all this nutrition, you can fashion some amazing radish recipes that range all the way from the super simple to the fantastically creative. While radishes are quite delicious with just a bit of warmed butter drizzled over them and a dash of salt, or sliced and added to your favorite fresh garden salad, there are other ways to prepare radishes for your next meal. This recipe is one I typically use when I have Daikon radishes. You can substitute any radish in the recipe, it will just take a whole lot more of them.
2 cups grated Daikon radish
2 teaspoons salt
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Enough butter or ghee to fry your cakes
In a large bowl place radish and sprinkle with salt
Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes
Remove from the refrigerator and squeeze and drain radish
Add garlic, onion, eggs, flour, pepper, paprika, and hot sauce
Mix until well combined
Form mix into small patties (you will get about 8-12 depending on patty size)
In a large skillet heat oil over medium high heat
Fry patties until firm and golden brown
Remove from pan and drain on paper towels
Let cool slightly and serve
These radish cakes are amazingly flavorful and can be served with any meal or all on their own. A small dollop of sour cream goes well with them, as does some fresh sliced avocado.
Another quick and easy recipe you can whip up using radishes is a flavorful butter. Check out the following recipe.
Herbed Radish Butter
15-20 radishes (not Daikon)
1 clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon marjoram
3 tablespoons chopped fennel
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a food processor add all ingredients
Blend until well combined and butter is smooth
Enjoy on anything you love to put butter on!
There’s a Radish for You
The radish, with its unmistakable flavor and easy growing style, is a pleasure to have in the kitchen and the garden. Whether you choose to plant in the spring or fall, or plan to plant for a continuous harvest, the radish has a variety to suit your needs. So, choose your favorite style of radish, plant away, and enjoying all the radish has to offer you.
Choose My Plate.gov. US Department of Agriculture. SuperTracker. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker
de Figuiredo, S., et al. 2015. Bentham Science. V: 9(1). Pages: 24-36. DOI: 10.2174/1872214809666150505164138. https://www.eurekaselect.com/131006/article
Michigan State University Extension. May 25, 2016. Michigan State University. How to Grow Radishes. A tip sheet on how to grow and care for radishes. https://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/how_to_grow_radishes
University of Illinois. My First Garden Vegetable Dictionary. Radishes. https://extension.illinois.edu/firstgarden/planning/dictionary/veggies/radish.cfm
Watson, G., et al. October, 2013. The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Journal. Phytochemicals from Cruciferous Vegetables, Epigenetics, and Prostate Cancer Prevention. V: 15 (4). Pages: 951-961. DOI: 10.1208/s12248-013-9504-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3787240/pdf/12248_2013_Article_9504.pdf