Many of today’s
gardening experts began their outdoor horticultural
careers with a packet of French Breakfast or Scarlet
Globe. The summer or salad radish is an ideal
starter vegetable for a child – it is practically
trouble-free and the round or long roots are ready
for salads or sandwiches in about a month. For
the grown-up gardener the well-known red varieties
are used to fill the space between rows of peas
and carrots or as row markers mixed with slow-germinating
seeds such as parsley, parsnips or onions. The
radishes quickly germinate and so mark out the
row and are ready for pulling before the main
vegetable needs the space. It is a pity that so
many people don’t take their radish knowledge
beyond this stage. There are unusual varieties
– small yellow roots, giant Japanese types
for pulling in summer and even a radish which
is grown for its pods rather than its roots. The
large winter radish remains a vegetable for the
adventurous even though it is easily grown for
winter use in salads or as a hot vegetable. As
with all vegetables, there is always something
new to learn and try…
Expected germination time: 4-7 days
Approximate number per ounce: 3000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 4lb (2kg) Summer
varieties; 10lb (5kg) Winter varieties.
Life expectancy of stored seed: 6 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 3-6
weeks Summer varieties; 10-12 weeks Winter varieties.
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· All the textbooks will tell you that
radishes relish a reasonably fertile, well-drained
soil which is adequately supplied with humus and
free from stones, but summer radishes usually
have to put up with an odd corner without any
thought about soil preparation.
· Despite this lowly status, they should
be given some soil preparation so as to ensure
the quick growth which is essential for tenderness
and flavour. Dig some peat or well-rotted compost
into the soil if it was not manured for a previous
crop – apply a fertilizer before sowing
and rake to a fine tilth.
· Choose a sunny spot for spring sowing
but the summer crop needs some shade – sow
between other vegetables.
· Dig drills ½ in (1cm) deep and
sow very thinly, about 1 seed or seed pellet per
inch, and cover with soil. Drills should be 6in
(15cm) apart for summer varieties and 9in (23cm)
apart for winter varieties.
· Summer varieties: Sow under cloches in
January or February or outdoors in March. For
a prolonged supply sow every few weeks or try
‘Mixed Radish’ seed which contains
varieties which mature at different times. Sowing
after early June often gives disappointing results.
· Winter varieties: Sow in July or early
August. Lift roots from late October onwards.
Lifting time: Usually early May to the end of
August; can extend from early April to the end
Looking after the crop
· With the summer varieties little or no
thinning should be necessary – if there
is any overcrowding then thin immediately so that
the plants are spaced at 1in (2.5cm) (small radishes)
or 2-4in (5-10cm) intervals (larger and Japanese
radishes). With the winter varieties thin to leave
the plants 6in (15cm) apart – make sure
you carry out this thinning before the plants
· Protect the crop against birds if they
are a nuisance in your area. Spray with Derris
or Crop Saver if flea beetles begin to perforate
· Hoe to keep down weeds. Water if the
soil is dry – rapid and uninterrupted growth
is essential for top quality. Summer radish is
not an easy crop to grow in July or August when
the weather is hot dry. Swelling is often unsatisfactory
and the roots may be woody and peppery.
· Pull the summer varieties when the globular
ones are the diameter of a 5p coin and the intermediates
are no longer than your thumb. They can, of course,
grow much longer but overgrown specimens would
be woody and hollow.
· Japanese varieties are best when pulled
at the 6in (15cm) stage but they can be allowed
to grow longer if required for cooking.
· The winter varieties can be left in the
soil and lifted as required, provided that you
cover the crowns with straw, bracken or peat.
It is better to lift them in November and store
as for carrots.
Summer varieties – Globular, Intermediate,
This is by far the more popular group –
the radishes which garnish the salad plate. Most
(but not all) are small and the usual colour is
all red or a red/white mixture. There are variations
– the Japanese types which can grow 1ft
(30cm) long and the yellow and all-white varieties
which have never become really popular.
Cherry Belle: Globular; all-red. A very popular
radish – cherry-coloured on the outside
and white, crisp and mild inside. It will remain
in the ground for a considerable time without
Scarlet Globe: Globular; all-red. Another popular
round radish with bright red skin. A quick-maturing
variety for early spring sowing.
Red Prince: Globular; all-red. One of the new
radishes for which it is claimed that the roots
remain crisp and mild when they are double or
treble the diameter of a normal round radish.
A good choice if you plan to sow in the difficult
Inca: Globular; all-red. Like Red Prince, this
radish remains crisp for a long period and is
better than most for summer sowing.
Saxerre: Globular; all-red. The top choice by
the experts for sowing under cloches in January
or February, more recent introductions for this
purpose are Ribella, Robino and Crystal Ball.
Sparkler: Globular, red/white. Very quick growing,
with no other outstanding virtues.
French Breakfast: Intermediate; red/white. One
of the most popular of all radishes. The cylindrical
roots are crisp and mild when pulled at the proper
time but hot and woody if harvesting is delayed.
Yellow Gold: Intermediate; yellow. A real novelty
– an oval radish, golden yellow on the outside
and white inside.
Large White Icicle: Long; white. An excellent
choice, producing in a few weeks 3in (7cm) long
roots which are crisp and nutty-flavoured. It
has never really become popular as we expect radishes
to be red.
Minowase Summer: A Japanese-type radish, producing
roots up to 12in (30cm) long. Sow in May and begin
pulling when the roots are 6in (15cm) long –
harvesting can continue for about a month. Excellent
for filling the summer period.
April Cross: A mooli or Japanese radish –
like Minowase Summer will reach 12in (30cm) or
more. Can be sown in spring.
München Bier: The odd one of the group, both
in name and use. It grows about 2ft (60cm) high
and it is the pods (eaten raw or boiled) and not
the roots which are harvested.
The Cinderella group, rarely grown and only a
few varieties are listed in the catalogues. The
roots are large, measuring a foot or more and
weighing up to several pounds. They have white,
black or pink skins and a flavour which is usually
stronger than the summer varieties.
China Rose: Not really a giant – the oval
roots are about 5in (12cm) long and 2in (5cm)
wide. The skin colour is deep rose, the flesh
crisp and white.
Black Spanish Round: A large globular variety,
black-skinned and white-fleshed. Like China Rose
it appears in most catalogues – others are
not easy to find.
Black Spanish Long – Similar to Black Spanish
Round apart from its shape – 1ft (30cm)
long and tapered like a parsnip.
Mino Early: Foot-long cylindrical roots with a
flavour which is milder and perhaps more acceptable
for salads than the other winter varieties.