Plant of the Week - Beauty Heart Radish

Plant of the Week - March 4, 2019

Beauty Heart Radish from my little garden by the lake

Beauty Heart Radish from my little garden by the lake

Radish - Beauty Heart

Rhaphanus sativus

The Plant:

If I paid you in radishes would you build me a pyramid?  You may say no thanks, but back in 5th century B.C. Egypt, many did just that.  There’re even inscriptions made by a Greek historian to back this up.  In fact, not only did they get paid in radishes, but with onions and garlic too!

So how did this humble woody root crop transform from dull yellow into vibrant red?  As the seeds made their way out of ancient Egypt and into the world, it took two paths.  One to Asia, the other to Europe.  In China it was bred over centuries into what we know as the large classic white daikon and other long tender Asian radishes.  When it came to Europe and ultimately France, the French sent it to “charm school” in the farms outside of Paris and transformed it into cheery petite spheres of reds and pinks.  Their version was more tender, and ready to eat right out of the garden often served with butter, a pinch of sea salt and chunks of baguette. 

The radish is a member of the mustard family calling broccoli, kale, cauliflower and horseradish cousins.  These beauties have a trove of health benefits.  From regulating metabolism to improving blood circulation, they have been used to treat headaches, constipation, nausea, obesity, sore throats, and gall stones.  Should have been eating these by the bucket full when I had my angry gall bladder! The essential oil from radish seeds is known to be a wonder for skin, nails, hair and scalp. And to praise it even more, they’re low in calories, with only 16 calories per 100g and a good source of antioxidants, Vitamin C and micro minerals.

One of the BEST things I discovered on my research is the festival “Noche de Rábanos” held every Dec 23rd in Oaxaca, Mexico!  What started as a creative way for vegetable merchants to lure customers to buy their produce by carving whimsical figures out of large red radishes, is now a centuries old tradition with a festival dedicated to the intricate and ornate radish carvings made by the towns people - artists and amateurs alike!

Radishes have to be the easiest and most soul satisfying plant to grow from seed! They were among the first seeds I grew at five years old. I call them “confidence plants” and are among the ones I recommend to first time seed planters no matter their age.  With some salad variety seedlings popping up just days after planting, the beginner gardener feels the wave of anticipation, then excitement when they begin to rapidly grow and harvest within a month.  The “Beauty Heart ” Chinese heirloom radish featured in my salad recipe, was planted in late October. I started harvesting in January.  The cool weather will slow them down a bit, but they also have a longer maturity date of 50-60 days.

Growing Guide: Full Sun

Culture:

•       Prepare soil for vegetable cultivation.

•       Radishes are a root crop, so make sure your soil is enriched with compost and amendments to loosen our natural heavy clay low desert soil and has good drainage.   

•       Plant radish seeds in the low desert from Oct-Feb. They like to grow in cooler weather and will bolt as the temperatures warm.

•       Sow seeds direct into the soil about ½” down into rows that are at least 12” apart.  Refer to your seed packet for your specific variety’s needs.

•       If you plant one row then wait a few weeks and plant another row, you will have a steady supply of radishes instead of a massive glut all at once.

•       Companion plant with lettuce, spinach, nasturtium, squash, beans, cucumbers and peas.

Maintenance and Harvest:

•       It will be tough, but you’ll need to thin the seedlings after a week or so of growth after the first true leaves appear. Delicately thin 2-4” apart depending on the variety.  Do this so the plant can produce at its best.  If they are crowded, you’ll have a bevy of small puny radishes instead of nicely full sized formed ones! Don’t be sad, you can toss these micro greens into your salad for a hint of peppery flavor.

•       Not enough water can cause them to be pithy and hollow.  Excess water may cause them to split. Drip irrigation helps to maintain even water delivery.  Adding a light layer of mulch will help keep the soil moist, particularly as the weather warms.

•       Keep your bed weed free so they don’t compete with your crops by stealing food and water.

•       Radishes will be ready to harvest quite rapidly, as soon as three weeks after planting for some varieties.

•       For most varieties, the shoulders of the radish will appear in the soil to signal harvest ready. When they are approximately 1 inch in diameter at the soil surface. Pull one out and test it before harvesting the rest!

•       Don’t leave radishes in the ground long after their mature stage; their condition will deteriorate quickly.

•       Cut the tops and the thin root tail off, wash the radishes, and dry them thoroughly. Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator.

•       Radish greens can be stored separately for up to three days.

 

Leslie’s Tips:  My favorite varieties to grow!

•       Beauty Heart – large sized Chinese Red Meat heirloom with vibrant fuchsia-rose centers

•       French Breakfast – long slender red top and white bottom

•       Easter Egg – pastel heaven of purple, pink and magenta hues

•       Nero Tondo – dramatic dark black exterior with white insides.


*note the growing guide applies to gardening in the Phoenix Metro low or subtropical desert with minimum temperatures of 25-30º F and 151-180 days with temps above 86º F.   USDA Hardiness Zone 9b, Sunset Climate Zone 13 and AHS Heat Zone 10.