Growing Asian Radishes

In the world of radishes, the numerous Asian varieties are meant to grow more slowly, and larger, than pink table radishes.
By: Nan Chase

Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus Longipinnatus

The Asian radishes come in lots of variations and carry a number of different names: Korean radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish, and others.

All of them share some characteristics that differ substantially from the typical red or pink table radish.

Asian radishes grow much larger than table radishes. Asian radishes have a different shape; rather than being round and fairly small, the Asian varieties are often elongated like carrots, or oblong and plump. In any case, their great heft sets them apart. A single radish of some varieties may grow to more than a pound.

Also, Asian – or so-called Oriental -- radish varieties take much longer to grow; they have a different growing cycle. Table radishes are quick growing, often maturing in three weeks or even less. Asian radishes, on the other hand, take from 55 or 60 days to as long as 120 days to fully mature.

That important distinction means, too, that Asian radish seed is sown at a different time of year. Rather than the seed being planted in the ground during cool seasons – spring, fall –as for table radishes, Asian radish seed is sown in summer or early fall, in order to two to three months of warm, adequately moist, weather to develop.

The uses of Asian radishes also vary. Table radishes mostly are eaten raw, garnished at times with salt or included in slaw or other salads. But Asian radishes are widely used for cooking: stirfry, stews, even a radish pudding. Asian radishes are also an important component for making pickled foods, including the popular Korean dish kimchi. The large Asian radishes are often grated before being incorporated into recipes.

While table radishes are usually pretty spicy, Asian radishes can range from quite mild to extremely hot. Plant whatever you prefer.

It’s necessary to supply Asian radish seed with deeply worked soil that includes plenty of well-aged organic matter. That lets roots spread out to their maximum size and yet stay crispy and light in flavor.

Exceedingly beautiful white radishes – Chinese white radish or Japanese white radish – are a pleasure to grow, because their meat tastes so fresh when you harvest the roots and use them right away. Where Korean radish varieties tend toward to be thick, almost columnar in shape, some of the Chinese and giant white types are quite long and slender.

Growing Asian radishes from seed is easy. Korean radish seeds, for example, are sown directly into finely raked soil, about ½ inch below the surface. Make sure that all radish plants receive agood supply of water, not all at once, but frequently and in moderate doses. Overly wet soil encourages rot, woodiness, bitter taste, and pest infestations in radishes.

Thin the radishes as they develop to encourage bigger size.

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