this is radish (sort of)

A survivor kind of radish.

I have put it through a lot.  My beautiful autumn radishes got planted late because of a work deadline, and then grew pitiably slowly in the cloudy, wet, chilly days at the end of October, making me give them up for lost.  I did harvest a few of the abundant greens for an attempt at radish leaf pesto (not recommended), but I certainly wasn’t going to bother to thin the entire patch when I was sure the exercise would be pointless, wasted effort.

However, our first killing frost came more than a month later than expected, and it’s generally been a mild season, so the radish tops stayed bright green and healthy.  After I’d prepped our small raised bed for spring radish planting, it seemed fitting that I clean out the remaining failed crop and compost it so that I could mulch the fall extension bed.

To be honest, I felt a little sad to be doing it.

Imagine my surprise when the very first seedling I yanked out of the ground was a Daikon radish which had managed to grow to an impressive depth of four and a half inches and a diameter of a half an inch.

Of course, this size is not at all impressive for a Daikon radish in general.  But it is astounding for a neglected, crowded stand of radishes, ignored and allowed to duke it out amongst themselves all through the dormant season.  I immediately set to thinning the remaining radishes, leaving about 25 Daikon seedlings with plenty of room to grow fat and sassy if they are inclined to do so in the spring-ish weather we’re having.

I also thinned out a pitiful row of Misato Rose radishes, those exotic-looking beauties sometimes called “Watermelon” radishes, with medium green skins and gorgeous rosy pink flesh.  There were only three of edible size in my thinnings, and most of the plants seemed not to have enjoyed the recent rains, with several sporting rotted leaves at their bases.

There were a few China Rose radishes, as well, with their pretty, neon pink skin and white flesh.  [See pitiful, stunted example above.]  I will be interested to see if any of these fatten up now that they’re not crowded.  Apparently, this variety can grow up to five inches in diameter.  That is one huge radish.

(Envisioning a radish five inches around makes me think of the huge, pampered, perfect radish that Junior Gorg grew on Fraggle Rock.  I think he’d named his prize radish Geraldine and become quite fond of her company, and he was devastated when some intrepid Fraggle stole it from his garden.  Does anyone else remember Junior’s pride and joy?)

At any rate, the Spanish Black radishes appear to have rejected my treatment of them thoroughly, and are not expected to recover although I gave them space to do so, just in case.

I took all the barely-edible-sized roots inside, along with a considerable quantity of mud.  (Over the winter, it appears I forgot the first rule of harvest:  wash dirt off outside first!  F. and I learned this rule the hard way last year.  I’ll have to get back into the habit, and quickly, or the state of my home, and especially my kitchen floor, will drive me insane.)

F. immediately plucked loose a plump Daikon dangling from the mass in my arms and rushed to the sink to wash it.  He was biting into it as I entered the kitchen.  He is actually the reason I plant so many radishes, in both spring and fall, as he cannot get enough of the things… yet thinks the version found in an American grocery store has exactly no flavor and thus is not worth purchasing.  Consequently, he hungers after radishes, a cool-season crop we can only grow briefly here, for much of the year.

To me, a radish is pretty much a radish.  Yes, the ones to come out of our garden last spring had a nice, fresh crispness and a slightly more bright flavor than the grocery version.  Still, nothing to write home about.

After biting into that Daikon this afternoon, though, I might just have to revise my opinion.  This long, ivory, tapered root was fantastic, spicy and dramatic and almost earthy, with a high note at the finish that left me wanting more than the small pile that had resulted from my afternoon of thinning.  Yum.  Cross your fingers the ones left in the earth grow up to normal size in spite of my neglect.

“This is radish (sort of)” is dedicated to Bangchik, for whom radishes are an exotic plant and whose post, “is this radish?” inspired the title.  I’m going to follow along at his blog, My little vegetable garden, as he attempts to grow these new-to-him vegetables for the first time.  I hope his results are better than these, and I suspect they will be.  He’s a great gardener, and spring radishes are relatively fool-proof.

Of course, some folks might say that about autumn radishes, too.

13 Responses to “this is radish (sort of)”

  1. My kids loved Fragglerock (I’m too old to have watched it and only saw it briefly as I passed through the room when they were watching).

    Homegrown is just as fresh as it gets and when you get unexpected flavours – that’s just some icing on the cake! I hope the radishes forgive you the neglect and prosper magnificently!

  2. I have never liked radishes. But then I never liked onions much either, until I grew my own. Maybe homegrown radishes are more tasty than store bought? You seem to plant a lot of them. What all do you do with them?

    • Oh, now, I love onions, Deborah. 🙂 We’ll be planting those, too, this year. 🙂

      I plant a lot of radishes because my husband adores them (and my little sis, who happens to be visiting now, does, too). As for what I do with them, the Daikons I’d intended to try grating and pickling, which I hear is fantastic. They can also be ground into a sort of horseradish-style paste. French breakfast radishes we consume as they taught me in the French countryside, notched down the middle, with a tiny pat of fresh butter tucked in. (So good!) And there’s always radish and ginger salads, or spring-style potato salad with radishes and baby carrots thinly sliced as part of the mix.

      But mostly, F. just eats them raw, directly from the garden — sometimes only just taking the time to wash off the soil!

  3. This post made me smile a lot – I know radish are supposed be fool-proof – but last year, somehow my radish crop failed in a spectacular way!
    How? why? I have no idea – so I am full of admiration for your radish!

    • LOL, Karen. My very first crop of radishes failed utterly, and I was asking the same questions of my farmer grandfather, who’d told me it was difficult to screw them up. He checked out my growing conditions and told me it was lack of drainage. I’d drowned my radishes, growing them in a pot with *no holes.* (In my defense, I was quite young, single digits. ;)) I’ve had crops fail twice since then: once because I planted too late in the spring and it got too hot for them, the few that made anything turned woody and painfully hot; and the other time because we had way too much rain and they basically rotted in the ground.

      Hoping you have better success this year!

  4. Dear Meredith, You will, I am sure, think me a complete fool. Until now, and your very readable and informative posting, I had no idea that there were so many varieties of radish. Indeed, I only ever seem to have come across those which are round, red and white, and the size of a sixpence!

    • Dear Edith, you are definitely not a fool! I don’t think it is well-known that there are radishes of many shapes, sizes and colors. Our monoculture farms are not geared to produce these gourmet gems for general consumption. The home gardener is blessed to be able to enjoy them and their varied flavors. There are radishes tapered like carrots, radishes as large and round as baseballs, radishes shaped like cylinders, and tiny globes not a half-inch in diameter. There are pink ones, white ones, purple and magenta ones, in addition to the standard red varieties. (I’m afraid I’ve never seen a sixpence, but I suspect I know the ones you mean. ;))

  5. I used to have to go to Asian markets to get a Daikon radish – but our international farmers’ market nearby has them, too. I actually do like the fat little red radishes though. They are so good in a relish tray with a little sea salt.

    • Lynn, I was just saying to F. yesterday that if only I’d known how good the Daikons are, I’d have been visiting the Buford Hwy Farmers’ Market for them more often. That was my international farmers’ market, and out here in the boonies it is like a mirage in my memory, with alll that exciting and beautiful produce…

      I’ve heard that grey sea salt is good on radishes. (I believe it is smoked somehow, to make it grey.) Have you ever tried that?

  6. As long as the colour is that of radish, shape will be secondary. Now I am anxious to see what shape of tuber would my seven radishes produce…. ~bangchik

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