Our garden is the farm's pride and joy. We love spending time in it, and preparing meals out of our fresh produce.
I didn’t like radishes as a child. I wasn’t a fan of spicy foods, and the radishes from the grocery store would often have a disappointing texture or a bitter aftertaste. I have come to appreciate this spicy vegetable, but I have also learned that the benefits of the radish go far beyond the little red root.
Not only are all parts of the plant edible, but these quick-growing vegetables are also great for succession and companion planting. They also produce an abundance of beautiful flowers that attract a variety of beneficial creatures that also turn into edible seed pods.
Here is an in-depth look at the spring radish and all the benefits it brings to the home garden.
8 Great Reasons Why You Should Grow Radishes
- Spicy roots
- Edible greens
- Succession planting
- Row markers
- Attract pollinators
- Attract predatory insects
- Edible seed pods
- Seed sustainability
1. Spicy Roots
The most common reason to grow radishes is for the spicy taproot. Spring radishes form a small round or cylindrical root that has been cultivated for over 3,000 years, and their ancestors still grow wild in Asia and around the Mediterranean. They can be red, pink, black, white, or purple and they all have a pungent, peppery taste.
Spring radishes are a cool-season crop, and they will be spicier when grown in hot weather. Spring radishes grow very quickly and most are ready to be harvested in 25 to 30 days from germination. They will also be hotter if left in the ground too long so it is best to harvest them early, the exact size at harvest depends on the variety and is usually specified on the seed packet.
Radishes in the Summer
If you want to grow radishes in the hot summer months, consider planting daikon or another winter radish that tolerates heat better than their spring cousins.
2. Edible Greens
The greens of a radish plant are also edible and are best eaten when they are young. Many people find the leaves to be bitter, and they can also be tough and scratchy. However, flavour and texture both improve with cooking (they are best in stir-fries) and they can also be dehydrated and added to most dishes.
3. Succession Planting
The radish, or Raphanus sativus, comes from the Greek mean “quickly appearing” which makes radishes ideal for succession planting. Succession planting is growing two or more crops one after the other. Radishes can be planted in the early spring and harvested early to make way for another crop of greens, beans, or another vegetable.
Because they are a cool-season vegetable, radishes can also be planted in the late summer or fall once another crop has been harvested.
4. Row Markers
Radishes can be used to mark the rows of other vegetables that are slow to germinate.
Not only do radishes grow quickly, but they germinate very fast as well and the seedlings often emerge 3 to 7 days after sowing. Intersow radishes with slow-germinating vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, beans, or green onions. The radishes will emerge long before the others, allowing you to clearly distinguish the rows for easy weeding before the other, more delicate, seeds germinate.
The radishes can be harvested while the other plants are still small, helping to loosen the soil and make space for the coming crop.
5. Attract Pollinators
Every year, we leave a number of radishes in the garden to go to flower. Radish flowers are beautiful and have many benefits.
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If left unharvested, radishes will soon send up a tall flower stalk. The flower stalks are up to 60cm (2ft) tall and covered in clusters of small 4-petalled flowers that range from pink to white. A single radish plant will remain in bloom from the spring right into the fall and they will stand strong long after a hard frost.
Radish flowers will attract a plethora of pollinators. Our radish flowers are always swarming with bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds. These pollinators will perform wonders for your garden and are particularly helpful for squash and tomatoes which can suffer from poor pollination.
6. Attract Predatory Insects
Along with pollinators, blooming radishes attract many beneficial predatory insects. Predatory insects are ‘good’ bugs that prey and kill undesirable bugs that are damaging vegetables in your garden. This is one of the best, and most natural, ways to combat insect infestations in the organic garden.
7. Edible Seed Pods
When left undisturbed, flowering radish plants will soon develop small, pointed seed pods.
I’m still not a huge fan of radishes, so I was delighted to learn that the seed pods are edible. They have a distinct, though mild, radish flavour without the sharp heat of the root. They also look unique in a salad or a stir-fry.
Radish pods are easily harvested (they are picked off the plant like a pea or bean), and they are a nice snack when working in the garden.
8. Seed Sustainability
It is very easy to save radish seeds. Once the plant has produced seed pods, allow the pods to dry on the plant as long as possible. If frost is imminent, harvest the mature pods and continue drying them indoors in a warm and dry location that has good air circulation. A dry pod will be brown and crunchy, and you should be able to hear the seeds rattle slightly inside it.
To store the fully dry seeds, we generally leave them in the pod and keep them in a brown paper bag, but you can also break open the pods and store them with your other seeds.
If you plan on collecting radish seeds from your garden, it is best to start with open-pollinated stock rather than hybrid varieties. Both open-pollinated and hybrid radish varieties will produce viable seeds, but open-pollinated varieties will produce a plant that is the same as the parent plant, while hybrid varieties have more unpredictable results.
Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid
Open-pollinated seeds are produced by crossing two genetically similar parents. Hybrids are the result of crossing two different varieties to take advantage of the combined characteristics.
The Super Radish
Our discovery of the wondrous benefits of radishes was purely happenchance: we neglected to harvest a few radishes one year and by the time we got to them, they had exploded into a dense mass of foliage and blooms. We always have a hard time pulling anything that is in bloom so we decided to leave them and I am so glad that we did. We were delighted to see the birds and bugs swarming on the blossoms, and some quick research led us the rest of the way.
In a way, it is almost a shame to harvest radishes for the root, because it doesn’t allow the plant to reach its full potential. When we let nature have its way, it is exciting to see what incredible things will come of it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Bellwether Farming (author) from Alberta, Canada on October 21, 2021:
We're glad the info was inspiring, James C Moore. It was incredible to see the number of bugs swarming around the radish blossoms this year. I think this helped with our squash which we often have trouble with.
James C Moore from Joliet, IL on October 20, 2021:
I know what I'll be planting soon. I especially like the fact that radishes attract beneficial insects. Also, it sounds like this can help with my tomatoes. Last year I was picking newly ripened tomatoes almost daily. This year it's taking them forever. Good info.