The ‘white icicle' is an ideal vegetable for beginners in a home garden, says Thilaka Baskaran

It is said that Mahatma Gandhi was fond of this vegetable. Most likely it was for its taste and for the punch of Vitamin C it provides generously. But for gardeners, this white number with the Greek name ‘Raphanus' (meaning appearing quickly) is a particular favourite for its rapid germination and maturity. From the seed to harvest, radish takes just 30 days.

Radishes come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. The most common is the ‘white icicle', the all-white radish that grows to about 15 to 20 cm. It also comes in a variety of colours, but all are white inside though the outer skin may vary from pink to black.

Its quick growth is a plus point for beginners in a home garden. It can grow across a wide range of climates and soil types. However, the ideal climate is fertile, loose and well-drained soil.

As for any tuber, dig 15 cm deep, remove stones and mix plenty of cocopeat and well-decomposed manure. Sow directly into the soil, about 2 cm deep and water well. If you are growing a long hybrid variety, then dig deeper, at least to 35 cm.

The seedlings will emerge in a week. This plant does not do well if transplanted.

Remember not to sow densely. One strategy is to mix the seeds with carrot, which is slow-growing. You can harvest radish in 30 days and leave the carrots to mature. This way, you save precious space and also ensure that radish seeds are sown thinly.

If you are planting only radish, then you have to thin it by pulling out some plants and give space for what is left to mature. Add vermicompost when the plant is 10 days old and water regularly. Inadequate watering and use of fresh manure causes the tubers to split. Since radishes mature rapidly, they should be checked often to see if they are ready for harvesting. They should be harvested when they are relatively young. Left in the ground for a long time, they become pithy and inedible. Most of the radish seeds now available are pest and disease-free.

In China and Turkey, proverbs extol the health-giving qualities of radish. They are low in calorie and rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, folates and potassium. The leaves, rich in fibre, beta-carotene and minerals, can be cooked like spinach. Unfortunately, it is not popular in south India.

Keywords: Vitamin C


Pottering AroundJanuary 13, 2011