Growing Winter Radishes

Some radishes love, love, love the cool weather during fall and winter. Try their versatility in stir fry cooking and pickling.
By: Nan Chase

Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus 

Most radishes grow quickly to maturity and are ready to eat in just three weeks or a bit longer.

Not so the winter radishes! These slow-growing wonders begin from seed sown in early or mid-summer, and then just keep getting bigger and juicier – more flavorful and beautiful to look at –until the weather gets cold in late fall.

Some of the winter radishes will keep just fine in the ground until well past the first frost, so think of them as “meals ready to eat” just steps away from the kitchen. Winter radishes can grow to several pounds apiece and nearly two feet in length – and so a single one may provide enough material for a whole meal.

Nutrients from winter radishes are powerful and fresh. The flavor is pure and penetrating, sometimes even sweet.

Just what “fall” and “winter” mean will depend on where you live, but in general there are a few special radishes to look for. After all, the main secret to growing awesome radishes of any kind is to plant the seeds at just the right time of the year for that variety.

The reward for this careful planning can be a bountiful harvest of gourmet radishes that are as decorative on the table as they are sustaining to eat.

For success with winter radishes, prepare a deep, fertile bed of soil. Enrich existing soil with composted yard waste, kitchen waste, aged manure, ashes, leaf mold, and be sure the developing plants will have at least six hours of direct sunlight a day through maturity.

The more luscious the soil is, to a depth of two feet, the more uniform and plump the radishes will grow. Plant the seeds from the middle of summer until a few weeks before first frost.

Check out these winter radishes:

  • Watermelon, or Red Meat, grows big and round with a green-white skin and deep-pink flesh within. The radishes mature from late fall onward and can be larger than a baseball.
  • Black Spanish, a huge and spicy variety that keeps well in the ground once mature.
  • Miyashige Daikon, a tender radish good for pickling in rice wine vinegar. This radish matures right into winter and can grow more than a foot long.
  • Minowashe Daikon, one of the largest of the winter radishes, grows to two feet in length and can be variable in flavor from mild to hot.
  • Formosa Giant Luo Buo, is the king of winter radishes at a top size of two or three pounds each.
  • China Rose Winter, tolerates frost well, making it a season-stretcher. The flavor is refreshingly mild.

At the end of summer a light mulch of straw will provide a layer of coverage to winter radishes.Weeding should be very light, since the developing root system lies close to the surface.

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