Thirteen days after planting, my radish seeds have germinated, despite the threat of being dug up by the cats and dogs of the neighbourhood.
My seedlings have pairs of lush green heart-shaped leaves, which look a bit like mustard (from ‘mustard and cress’ fame) and there’s a good reason for this. The radish plant is closely related to mustard and they both belong to the brassica family of vegetables, which includes cabbage, turnips and broccoli.
The Radish in History
Radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt where ancient writings have shown they were cultivated before the building of the pyramids.
In Ancient Greece the radish was so revered that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo, who it seems was a very busy god responsible for a number of facets of life, including medicine and healing.
The radish found its way to England in the mid 16th century and into Shakespeare’s Henry IV shortly after – ‘. . . when a’ was naked, he was, for all the world, like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife.’ (King Henry IV. Part II. Act iii. Sc. 2.)
After I planted my seeds I found some very precise radish planting instructions from the Texan Department of Horticultural Sciences. Their method would require more land than I have got, but then I found the Cambridge Science and Plants for Schools website, which really does prove that you can grow radishes in the smallest space. They have step-by-step instructions on growing radishes in film canisters (although by picture 5, it looks like the canister has grown to the size of a baked bean can).
Radish Seedlings and Sprouts
Radish seeds don’t have to be planted, they can be grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.
As some of my seedlings have come up bunched together in what would be a good sprouting stage, I pull a few out and decide to give them a taste test.
They have a warming, peppery taste with a subtle flavour of (surprise, surprise) radish! I think they would be great for perking up cheese or egg sandwiches, or as a topping for salads and soups.
So what nutrients does this humble salad veg have . . .
Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Other nutrients, including iron, are also found, but in lesser quantities.
Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.
In a few weeks’ time (fingers crossed), my radishes will be fully grown and I can’t wait to see what they taste like fresh from the soil. I had better go and water them now . . .