There’s nothing like the sharp and crunchy bite of a radish to add some zing to your salad. Originally from Southeast Asia, radishes have been gracing our tables in the west since Pre-Roman times, and they have become a staple of British salads.
Radishes are wonderful, easy-to-grow additions to our home veg patches or allotments, but many of us only know the little pink spring varieties we usually find in the supermarket. Spring radishes are of the ‘live fast, die young’ philosophy, shooting up and ready to crop in just 3 or 4 weeks. Their fast-burning spirit means that they must be picked before they over-ripen, else they turn bitter, and they will only keep for a week or so in the fridge.
If you haven’t tried them before, I’d like to introduce you to their more mature and reserved cousin, the winter radish. They take a leisurely 8 to 10 weeks to ripen, and can stay in the ground getting larger and juicer as long as you like, so long as you harvest them before the ground freezes. They will then last for months in a refrigerator or cold room. So if you are thinking of growing radishes, think about going winter.
Next, water the soil at this point so that you don’t need to risk displacing the tiny seeds by watering afterwards. Your furrow should be about an inch (2-3cm) deep, and the seeds, which are quite fiddly, a few inches apart. If planting multiple rows, give them about 3 to 6 inches (7-15cm) of space between rows. Rake the soil back over.
If you get a rare British winter drought, water every few days. Radishes that don’t get enough water grow slowly and turn woody.
Once they are ripe, winter radishes are best left in the ground. The first frosts shouldn’t hurt them, so long as you harvest them before the soil really freezes. Once out, they can stay in your fridge or a cold room for months at a time, but to keep them firm you may want to remove the greens and keep the roots in plastic bag.
The hotter the weather, the hotter your radishes will be, and the cooler the weather, the milder the taste.