A fast-maturing vegetable that can grow in small spaces and is flavourful to boot — sounds like an urban farmer’s dream. Such is the radish or laal mooli, a well-established crop since Roman times, which is still popular among farmers for all these reasons.
The red-skinned and white-fleshed vegetable is a globe with a diameter of around an inch. Both the root and the leaves are used for culinary purposes. Radishes are loved for their bright red colour and sweet, mild flavour. Although there are a variety of different shapes, colours and tastes among radishes, the tiny globes with the blushing red colour are unbeatable!
Try growing each variety as it takes only 20 days for this wonder crop to mature from sowing.
Radishes can easily be grown in small or large containers or trays if you do not have a patch to grow your vegetables on.
Randomly scatter the seeds two inches apart and lightly cover them with compost. Plant seeds in small rows after every 10-15 days. Remember that it is better to sow a small amount than have a large amount of radishes ready to harvest at the same time.
As indicated by the Greek name of its genus, Raphanus meaning “quickly appearing”, the seeds sprout within two days. That they grow so fast makes radishes suitable for plant projects children could work on.
Growing radishes in your garden
Radishes would grow best in a well-drained, rich, loamy soil. It is a crop for the cool season. For a winter harvest, plant seeds as soon as you see autumn emerge from summers. Give radish seedlings a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight and water them regularly. Irregular watering will blot their skins.
This fast-growing crop can be planted along with slow growing counterparts to avail the unused spaces in the garden: Carrots, onions, marigolds, lettuce, cabbages, beans and tomatoes enjoy the company of these bright red veggies.
Harvesting and beyond
Radishes should be picked as soon as the spheres reach an inch in diameter. Leaving them for a slightly longer time would change the taste from a desirable, pleasant tang to an unwanted spiciness. If picked at the right time, radishes make a variety of dishes tasteful. The flesh and seeds are also edible and add crunchiness to salads.
The greens can be refrigerated for about 2-3 days and the vegetables for about a week. But for a truly scrumptious treat, eat them fresh!
Storing seeds for sowing
Leave a few plants growing beyond maturity to encourage seeding. Left like that, radishes produce flowers that turn into seedpods. These seedpods contain seeds that can produce many more radishes. Simply let seedpods mature and dry on the stalk. Carefully open up each seedpod and collect seeds in a dish. Let the seeds dry for two days in direct sunlight. They would then be ready to store in an airtight container or a sealed bag.
A green idea
Storing seeds is a rewarding practice for any farmer. The quality of seeds produced depends on growing methods adopted and the seeds that the plants were started from. Make sure that the seeds you start off with come from an organic source and are not hybrids. Avoid chemicals on plants and keep them pest and weed free.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 4th, 2011.