Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Rash of Radishes

Here in the South, we are lucky enough to have almost a 365 day growing season. The cool season crops are just going in. As I was talking to my mother the other day, we were comparing what we had planted so far and what we were planning on planting.
The topic of radishes came up. The California Rare Fruit Growers Association has made this the year of the Pomegranate, I disagree, I think it should be the year of the radish. Apparently my brother has decided to plant LOTS of them and as far as I know, the consumption of radishes in my family is not exactly brisk. Though, for some apparent reason, I even planted some this year. A radish conspiracy?
I had the seeds, so why not?
The radish, Raphanus sativus, is thought to have originated in East Asia or more than likely China, but the exact location is unknown. Egyptian writing reports that radishes were a common food in ancient Egypt before the pyramids were built. In Greece, radishes were so highly valued that imitations of them were made of gold. The radish did not make its way to England until approximately 1548. By 1629 they were being cultivated in Massachusetts.
The earliest radishes to be cultivated were the black varieties.

This variety is turnip-like in size and shape, approximately eight
inches long. Black radishes have a dull black or dark brown skin. When
peeled, their flesh is white, quite pungent, and drier than their other color counterparts.
Black radishes have a longer shelf-life than most other varieties, so they are
available year-round.
Red Globe is the radish most people know. It is the most popular variety in the United States. This is the familiar looking red and white "button".

One other radish I would like to mention is the Daikons. They are very large, carrot-shaped radishes that are up to 18 inches long and weigh one to two pounds. Daikons have a white flesh that is juicy and a bit hotter than a red radish, but milder than black.

I mentioned that here in the South we have an almost year round growing season. Radishes are considered a cool season crop, preferring temperatures between 40-70 degrees. Optimum temperature range is 60-65 degrees. The nice thing about radishes is, they are a very quick crop to turn around from seed to table. Most requiring only 20-35 days to mature. Even some of my friends up North may still have time to plant some. If nothing else, they work great in a container and can be brought into a garage if the temperature starts to go below freezing. There are some varieties that require 40-50 days.
Because radishes grow so rapidly, a rich, fertile soil is essential. Sandy or sandy-loam soils are preferred. The soil should be free of stones, clods, lumps, and undecayed organic matter. To be mild, tender, and attractive, the radishes must be grown rapidly. Slow growth or checked growth results in roots that are tough, woody, pithy, and pungent. The "hotness" of radishes results from the length of time they have grown rather than from their size.
To plant, sow seeds one quarter to a half inch deep in rows spaced 3 inches apart. After the seedlings appear, you will want to thin them out so they have room to grow. Usually you will want about 2-3 inches apart on all side. Seeds typically sprout in three to seven days when sown in 60 degree soil.
Keep an even moisture level. Sometimes radishes simply split open as they mature and get older, this is the result of uneven watering. Trying to make up for a period of drought with a lot of water all at once will cause the radish to grow too rapidly and split open.
Diseases are not usually a problem when growing radishes, probably due to their quick growth. There are a few pests that you may need to look out for. Flea beetles make numerous small holes in radish leaves.

Flea Beetle

Cabbage root maggots and cutworms sometimes rasp holes or channels into radish skins. Aphids and various caterpillars, such as cabbage loopers and diamondback moths will also eat the leaves. All of these pests are easily prevented by covering the plants with lightweight floating rowcovers.
There are many, many different named radishes on the market, it might take a little research to uncover many of them. Some to look for include: Cherry Belle, Easter Egg, Round Black Spanish,Icicle and the unusual sounding French Breakfast.
Radishes are most often eaten raw. Use a stiff vegetable brush and scrub them under cold running water. Do not peel radishes, unless there is some kind of problem with the skin. Pare away the top and root end then slice, dice, shred, or serve whole.
I have discovered some other interesting ways to eat and use these tasty little treats.
In China and Japan, most of the radish crop is pickled in brine, in much the same way that we pickle cucumbers.
How about an Open-Faced Radish Sandwich

4 bagels cut in half or 8 slices bread
8 ounces cream cheese
6 small globe radishes
salt and pepper

1. Spread bagels or bread slices with 1/4 inch cream cheese.
2. Using s sharp knife or mandolin, slice radishes very thin. Overlap the radish slices on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle each sandwich with salt and pepper.
Maybe my brother has already seen these recipes and that is why he planted so many. If any of these recipes pan out to be good, maybe I will be planting a Rash Of Radishes myself!
Happy Growing!

1 comment:

  1. I planted them one year....and left most of them in the ground....not a radish family here either.