Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus
Radishes are known for their peppery roots, round and pink. But radish leaves, the vigorous top growth of developing radishes, are delicious and nutritious as a vegetable all on their own. Even if you don’t like eating radish roots you might enjoy radish greens cooked in various ways.
Growing good radish greens means growing the best possible radishes. To do that a gardener must:
- Provide deeply worked soil with plenty of organic material mixed in. Radishes grow best when the roots are free to expand quickly.
- Provide plenty of moisture so the soil stays evenly watered. Too much water at once can stunt radish growth and encourage pests, while too little water results in tough, sometimes bitter radishes.
- Thin the growing young plants. Letting the plants have plenty of room – once germination is completed – will result in healthier radishes and more attractive greens.
- Weed gently, if at all, and surround radishes with a light mulch like straw.
- Plant most table radish seeds in cool weather only: spring or fall. The longer growing daikon radishes may be planted in summer to mature in autumn.
The humble radish leaf holds plenty of nutrition. The main attraction is a high level of vitamin C, nearly 30 percent of the daily minimum requirement in a cup of greens. In addition the radish contains dietary fiber, the bulk that helps us digest food and stay healthy.
Low in calories, the radish green also has traces of other beneficial minerals and elements.
If radish greens are picked when they are young and tender, their tendency to growing prickly hairs is avoided, and they are less likely to have bite marks from insects living in the garden. Once picked, the greens should be washed promptly by immersing them in a sink full of cold water, then drained.
Best cooked right after picking, cleaned radish greens can be kept fresh for several days by wrapping them in moist paper towels and storing in the refrigerator.
Harvest radish greens in several ways:
- Taken from the thinned radishes
- Cut from harvested mature radish roots
- Cut in the field from growing radishes
To serve, steam radish greens, or sauté them with grease or fat, and then season with vinegar, salt, and pepper, or a dash of hot sauce. Include them in stews and soups.
Here are some radish varieties with greens worth growing:
- Perfecto, a new hybrid
- French Breakfast, with mild tops
- Pink Beauty, uniform greens
- Misato Rose, a long-growing late radish
- Amethyst, with strong, shapely tops
- Saxa 2, fast to grow and harvest
- Easter Egg, lots of mild greens
Remember to plant radishes in succession rather than all at once. That way you get a longer lasting harvest of both roots and tops.