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Dainty, feisty breakfast radishes

   Radishes, 'Petit Dejeuner'_3635

'Petit Dejeuner' Radishes
"Dainty with a feisty taste" is how @sophiemostly describes the ideal French Breakfast Radish. I harvested this crop on June 2nd, 59 days after sowing.

The first thing I'm going to do is send you away to read The Radish on the beautiful Nourish Me. Lucy's prose and photographs make me feel like I've feasted when I haven't eaten a bite and illuminate aspects of food I'd forgotten or never known. And perhaps like me, after experiencing this lush post you will admire and desire this humble root even more.


Now I'll assume (and hope) you've returned to Greens & Berries, nourished by Lucy's post, your mouth watering, craving pickled radishes & wondering how to grow your own crop of Raphanus sativus. In this post I'm going to share with you all I've learned so far. Keep in mind I'm a novice needing more radish education as I've completed only one crop cycle of sowing, tending, harvesting and tasting.

Radishes, 'Petit Dejeuner'_3613

Growing radishes

After harvesting my first crop last week, I found these two resources:

  • Barbara Damrosch, in this Kitchen Gardener's International article, asks us to "rethink the radish" and suggests crisp, crunchy, colourful, zesty (and all its synonyms) varieties to try in our gardens.
  • According to this NYT article, radishes are "easy to sprout" (this I knew) but "hard to grow right" (this I didn't know, thankfully, or I may not have tried them in my limited space). The article explains how to grow the ideal radish, "a crisp, delicately piquant root, nice for slicing into salads or eating out of hand with a sprinkle of salt and a slice of buttered bread."

Now that you and I know the "right way" to grow radishes, I'm going to tell you what I actually did:

  1. I grew 8 radishes in a 20 cm (8-inch) diameter pot, though I probably would have gotten bigger roots if I'd planted the seeds deeper and thinned out more seedlings.
  2. I used a mixture of 3/4 organic potting soil and 1/4 vermicompost and did not amend the soil after sowing.
  3. Here are photos of the seedlings 18 days and 29 days after sowing.
  4. The weather was mostly just right (cool) in April and early May though there were many warm, summer-like days from mid-May on. I kept the soil moist, never letting it dry out completely but not soaking it either.
  5. The growing radishes received full sun for no more than 5-6 hours each day, usually between 8 am and 2 pm.
  6. They grew next to pots of kale, broccoli raab and mixed greens creating a pretty mix of leafy textures. Though I didn't have any flowering ornamental plants in May, I think these edible greens would make a lush filler for a brightly-coloured thriller.

Radishes, 'Petit Dejeuner'_3618

Eating radishes

Here's a handful of recipes from my food network. So I can try them all, I've written a note-to-self to sow more radish seeds next time and sow them every week during the cool weather.

  • New Moon Radishes, Radish Leaves Rasam, & Fresh Radish Chutney: 2 cups fresh mint, 25 g radish, 1/4 onion, salt, green chilli, 1/2 tablespoon lime juice. Blend. Add water to thin if necessary (recommended by @Ganga108, a new online friend)

Two mornings ago I finally solved my pleasant quandary: what to do with my tiny harvest of petite radishes. Though I'd received the tasty suggestions from my food network, by Sunday morning the crop had dwindled to just four small roots so I made a quick decision to slice them thinly as a topping on toast spread with creamy cheese. The radishes added a pop of colour, crunch & a subtle piquancy. Definitely dainty but not quite feisty -- more like politely assertive.

Radishes, 'Petit Dejeuner'_3677

Nutrition (or the section where the gardener puts on her dietitian hat)

Though I've never seen radishes on any "healthiest foods you should be eating" list, they aren't just water & cellulose --  they're tasty, low-energy, good sources of fibre, vitamin C and potassium.  (See complete nutrition profile here.)


So now I'd like to satisfy my new breakfast craving and harvest another crop in about 40 or fewer days (before it gets too hot) plus increase my radish knowledge and recipe collection. Which varieties of radishes are you growing this year? Do you have any growing or eating tips? Please share them in the comments below.

Reader Comments (11)

I love it that youve included all of the details about your sowing and growing in this post! And lots of wonderful links.

I planted a mixed radish seed mix first time which were OK but not very spicy. Just today I've sown a second batch but this time French Breakfast radish (hopefully a little feistier). And I've planted a few less this time - a square foot of radish sown all at once is too much for two people.

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

Hi Sophie. I think you will really enjoy the breakfast radishes. I too, am learning by trial, error & modest success how much to sow. I overplanted lavender, hit it just right with lettuce, & underplanted the radishes. I really should draw up on sowing schedule for summer instead of being so haphazard.

What about combining radishes and carrots in the same square foot? One of the references mentioned inter-planting these two crops.

June 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterElaine

Your radishes look great. I must put some more in since I have seeds lying around. I like the idea of serving them with cream cheese - spicy and creamy is a good contrast.

June 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwen from Hoglet K

Oh yes, Arwen, you really should plant some. Radishes are so versatile, as I'm discovering.

June 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterElaine

You're photos are completely inviting. I just add radishes to my garden last year and this summer I tripled my planting because they were so fun to grow. This year I'm growing Easter Egg and Cherry Belle varieties.

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Well perhaps I might start thinking of the radish in a different way. Thank you for this re-visitation (including Lucy's gorgeous blog - oh no, so many wonderful blogs, so little time!).

June 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTess

Well. I hardly know what to say in light of such glowing praise...thank you, thank you, lovely Elaine!

Sounds, in the end, as though you found the perfect solution - kitchen- and garden-wise. I grew some last year and the poor, sad wee things came out spindly and weak. The NYT piece I've bookmarked for next time. Don't you love those greens, too?

June 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucy

Well that's a wonderful solution Elaine. I think a first crop should be eaten simply - so you get the full flavour and taste of your harvest. Bet it was the best bit of toast you've had in a long, long while.

And a great resource post you've put together Elaine - all the growing, eating and nutrition in one place. Love it.

Great piece from the NY Times. I have always thought radishes are "easy to grow" but I like the way they differentiate between getting a crop and getting a crop that tastes wonderful. I've bookmarked for when I get my leaf growing act together!

June 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkathryn

@Allison: I've just added those two varieties to my list of next radishes to sow. Thanks.

@Tess: I'm rethinking & re-appreciating all kinds of common foods because of bloggers who look at the art of food -- it really is more than fuel, isn't it.

@Lucy: What can I say -- your writing doesn't need my introduction. It is so evocative. And your photos...beautiful & delicious. I definitely will reserve part of my next radish harvest to make the pickled radishes you featured. Sophie shared a recipe with me for using the radish greens. I will put it in an addendum to this post.

@Kathryn: Yes, it was a memorable slice of toast though slightly "bittersweet" because I was craving a second slice -- but I'd eaten all the radishes. I found the New York Times article when I was searching for recipes & was thrilled to get all the tips on growing recipe-worthy crops. So glad you will be able to use this resource too. And I really must say thanks for inspiring me to make a post out of my radishes, Kathryn. It really did start when you sent me off to Lucy's blog

June 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterElaine

I'm in Boston and up here at the farmers markets I've been picking up these beautiful Easter Egg Radishes...they are red, purple and white and just beautiful. I slice them up, including the greens, and saute in butter and salt. Love!

H Michelle. I'm so glad you commented -- those radishes and the way you prepare them sound lovely. I'll have try growing that variety in late summer/early fall.

June 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterElaine

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