* Radish is an all-year round vegetable. We can enjoy the small, quick-growing, summer varieties with their juicy, white flesh from April to October; then switch to the larger, slower-growing winter types which have black, red, yellow, white or green skin, and white, pink or green flesh. Radishes can also be grown for their crunchy, green seedpods which have only a mild radish flavour.
* In common with many of our vegetables, the first records of radishes are found in Egyptian wall paintings dating back 4000 years. Wild ancestors are found in much of Europe and Asia and it is likely that radishes was taken into cultivation in more than one area with the summer varieties finding favour in Europe, and the winter ones in Asia. In Tibet and north-east China large radishes are lifted and stored for winter use, and in Korea they are pickled and stored in underground vats.
* The town of Oaxaca (pronounced Wahaca) in Mexico has a Night of the Radishes on the evening of December 23rd, when intricate sculptures made from specially grown giant radishes are displayed in the town square.
* Radishes are brassicas, the same family as turnips, cabbage and sprouts. Unfortunately, this means they are subject to the same pests including cabbage root fly and flea beetle. They are also related to mustard, as you can tell from their hot, peppery flavour.
* The word radish is derived from radix, the Latin for root. Their botanical name Raphanus means ‘quickly appearing’ in Greek and refers to the rapid germination of these plants. If growing a slow-germinating vegetable such as parsnips you can mark their position by adding a few radish seeds to the row. These can be harvested before the parsnips really need the space.
* The giant of the radish world is mooli, also known as daikon, a popular vegetable in much of Asia, though it can also be grown in this country. The carrot-shaped roots easily reach 30cm long, and can grow as much as 1m in ideal conditions.
* As an introduction to radishes, you could read Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes by Margaret Atwood. Ramsay travels with his friend Ralph, the red-nosed rat, from his home full of revolting relatives to a field of roaring radishes owned by a girl named Rillah. As you can see, it’s a tale that revels in words beginning with R.