Have you ever heard of “Hero Snow?” It is powder so soft and deep that you can almost ski it without fear or inhibition. It makes you look amazing no matter what dumb move you’re attempting. It makes the gaper succeed where he may have failed before. Radishes are like that. They are a Hero Vegetable that make you look like an expert gardener no matter how much your garden struggles elsewhere. You can use old seeds in a garden with bad soil and pests, hardly take care of them, and you’ll still probably have at least a few tasty radishes in less than a month. And, they are just as willing to get down to business indoors. So, go get yourself some radish seeds and prepare for awesomeness.
Radishes have been one of the easiest, fastest and most reliable crops we’ve grown in the Tub Garden. On par with lettuce, really. You can only eat so much lettuce, though, without more stuff in it to make it interesting. So, if you’re growing lettuce indoors, you may as well attempt some radishes too. Now I feel like some sort of gardening “dealer”, trying to push you into a “gateway” vegetable. Actually…do be careful – this may be just the kind of thing that starts you on a lifetime of indoor gardening. Oh gosh, now I hope I didn’t start you on growing doobies.
Well, let’s get back to the radishes…
Why are radishes such a Hero Vegetable both indoors and out? Well, for starters, you don’t have to keep them alive very long and they’ll still get the job done. Most radish varieties (not the winter Daikon) will germinate quickly (usually in 3-4 days) and then they’ll be ready to harvest in a super quick 21 days. Radishes aren’t too fussy about soil type or temperature. They are naturally resistant to most pests and diseases. And, as an extra bonus, they don’t take up a lot of space either horizontally or vertically. Radish seeds are even easy-going. You can plant old radish seeds – even up to five years old – and still get quite a few of them to germinate.
Radishes are also versatile in the kitchen. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and the whole plant is edible from root to flower. Radishes can be eaten very early as tasty micro greens, or if you accidentally let them go past flowering, you can even eat their the seed pods.
Also, I think they happen to be very beautiful, so much so that they are the subject of the painting in my tub garden. Overall, the radish is a very snazzy vegetable.
- Botanical name – Raphanus sativus
- Sun exposure – Full sun.
- Soil type and pH – loamy, neutral
- Light period* – 12 – 14 hours of light
- Water – Keep soil moist but not wet.
- Weeks to maturity – as soon as 21 days in many cases!
- Health benefits – Radishes roots are a moderate source of Vitamin C, with small amounts of folate and vitamin B6
- Favorite varieties – French Breakfast, Rover, D’Avignon
Radishes are an annual root vegetables from the Brassicaceae family which also includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and horseradish. Radish, and most of the Brassicaceae family for that matter, are a favorite among microgreen growers for their rapid germination and intense flavor – even when harvested early. That peppery, radish-y taste comes from allyl isothiocyanates, which is the same chemical that gives mustard, horseradish, and wasabi their pungent lip-smacking flavors.
The root skin colors can be quite varied, from white to red, purple, yellow and even black, but the inside fleshy part is almost always white. Just like the dark aubergine eggplant skin, the dark red color of the radish is caused by anthocyanins.
Also, in case you were wondering , horseradishes are not actual radishes. They are from the same family Brassicaceae, but are different genus: Raphenus (radish) vs Armoracia (horseradish).
Now that I have claimed these vegetables are so easy to grow and are a staple even in Children’s Gardens, I’m sure I will suddenly be cursed and unable to grow them in my own indoor garden. Hopefully not. But of course, there are some things you can do to make sure you get the tastiest, best radishes you can grow. Make sure to space them about 2″ apart – any closer together and they will inhibit each other’s growth. You can sew them directly into the soil if you don’t feel like seed starting and transplanting them, and succession plant them every 2 weeks if you want a constant supply of radishes. They need at least 12 hours of indoor light, or at least 6 hours of real, full sunshine. Like most vegetables, keep them moist but not wet. If you let them stay in the ground past their harvest date, they may get a little too spicy so pay attention to the dates you plant them and pull up one or two to taste them and make sure they’re ready and palatable.
French Breakfast was definitely our favorite variety, they look so beautiful and the flavor is slightly milder than the more typical Rover, Cherry Belle or Watermelon.
As I said earlier, the entire radish is edible and some radish varieties such as Rat tail and München Bier actually are grown for their seed pods! The pods look almost like edamame and can be eaten raw, or the seeds themselves can be dried and served as an extra bite of flavor in salads. The plant will only make one radish root, but will produce several radish pods once you let it go past flowering.
Home-grown Radishes 3 ways
In the US, radishes typically are just something we chop up and throw raw into a salad. They were a staple at every salad bar that used to be across America. Who knows if we will ever have salad bars again. But, it doesn’t matter because radishes can be so much more than just some color in an otherwise boring salad.
1. Radishes with Butter and Salt
Leave it to the French to make radishes look cool. The traditional French way to enjoy radishes is simply dipped in a little room temperature butter and salt, eaten raw as an aperitif meant to improve appetite and digestion. Its French simplicity is Frenchly elegant and timeless.
This recipe is almost too simple to write up. But, basically, simply mix butter and kosher salt to taste. You could add chives or parsley as well to be extra fancy. Mix the butter, dip the raw radishes.
Serve with a baguette, a good glass of wine, play some french jazz and exude coolness.
2. Bavarian Radish Salad
This Bavarian “Rettichsalat” is a beloved summer classic in southern Germany (and actually here in Vail as well). White or red radishes are sliced thin, or into paper thin curls. Then you add chives, oil, salt and a little vinegar. Schmeckt gut!
Recipe. Thinly slice about 12 medium radishes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 Tbsp Vinegar, 1 Tbsp sliced chives, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp butter. Mix and enjoy either immediately or after marinading for a few hours (even better).
Serve with pretzels, a tall glass of Pilsner, play some Oktoberfest Polka tunes, and be merry.
3. Pasta with French Breakfast Radishes and Greens
This is the recipe of the three that will really get your attention. Radish, salt and butter is obviously a classic combination, but it becomes much more complex when the radishes are cooked. I haven’t seen cooked radishes too often before, even in the fancy restaurants at Vail, and they really are worth looking into. The cooked radish becomes almost a source of umami when prepared this way. The following recipe is very reminiscent to me of Pasta Carbonara. Instead of pancetta however, the flavor of the cooked radish is so buttery and hearty and full of decadence that it replaces the pancetta and you don’t even miss it. This isn’t really a carbonara recipe, as there is no egg. I guess it’s more of a pasta aglio e olio. A pasta aglio e olio e awesomeness.
Serve with green onions or radish microgreens, a dash of fresh-grated parmigiana reggiano, and a fresh sprig of thyme for extra “street cred” from your indoor garden.
Pasta with French Breakfast Radishes and GreensCourse: MainCuisine: VegetarianDifficulty: Easy
This meal is quick and easy enough for a weeknight, elegant enough for a fancy meal.
6-8 French Breakfast Radishes sliced thin, lengthwise, greens set aside
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
2 medium green onions, diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz thin spaghetti
2 cups fresh grated parmigiana reggiano
- Make the pasta. Fill a large pot with water for pasta, a Tbsp of oil and a more salt than you think you should. Heat on high until the water starts to boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until just tender. Take off the heat and drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta water.
- In a medium skillet, heat the butter over medium low heat. Add the green onions and cook scallions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add the radishes, thyme, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the radishes start to soften and become more translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the radish greens and turn heat to low, stirring occasionally.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta, the radish/thyme/green onion mix, 1 cup of the pasta water and the cheese. Stir over very low heat. Add back the pasta water slowly until the dish is slightly wet at the bottom of the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with fresh grated parmigiana reggiano and a garnish of radish greens.
So get out there (or in there?) and start growing some of the easiest and most satisfying indoor Hero Vegetables you can try your hand at. You’re going to start believing in your indoor gardening skills with these little buggers. Which is good. Just don’t blame me if this starts you on a path to lifelong indoor gardening. It’s not such bad thing, even if it is totally addictive…just like Hero Snow.