I get to claim that I’ve been gardening for over fifty years on a mere technicality; as a small boy, my father let me use a patch of his garden to grow easy vegetables like beans and radishes. About every two hours, I would go down to the house and get Mum, urging her to come and look how big my radishes were, then dawdle back up the yard to give them a chance to grow just that much bigger before we’d arrive to inspect them.
Back then, all radishes were ‘French Breakfast’; small rose and white spheres about three centimetres across that seemed to live their whole life in the space of a few short weeks. After that they turned to wood. In more recent decades, I grew ‘White Icicle’ radishes, all of which met a similar fate of fossilisation if left too long between visits by the cook.
After much mucking about, I discovered Japanese ‘Daikon Radishes’, and the love affair between us has seen off all competitors. Not only are they huge (yes, that’s a dinner plate in the photo above!) but they are a pretty plant with the exquisite patience of the Japanese themselves; these radishes don’t seem to turn woody, and can be left in the ground for longish periods. Their only downside seems to be their size – they can take some digging out if left to go too deep!
A simple dish of radish salad is a fine peppery condiment to accompany all sorts of meals. Just peel a single radish with the potato peeler, grate it coarsely and add chopped chives (or any other oniony material) and add balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then serve.