Harvesting Radishes

Timing and technique: get them right for a delicious harvest of radishes that lasts for week or months. Ready, set, pull!
By: Nan Chase

Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus 

Radishes are a wonder crop: easy to plant, fast to germinate, and nearly foolproof as long as soil and moisture conditions are adequate. Crispy-delicious, and nutritious too.

Best of all, some radish varieties are ready to eat in as few as three weeks. Harvesting radishes involves little more than bending down and pulling them from the soil.

A few considerations will make for maximum productivity from your radish crop, with minimum waste.

Most radishes fall into two main categories: fast-growing table radishes that are planted in either early spring or late summer and usually mature in 20 to 40 days, and so-called winter radishes that are planted most often in late summer and take 50 or 60 days to mature; these winter radishes can be left in the ground even through autumn’s first frost.

The most efficient way to harvest round table radishes is to start picking them once they have reached about the size of a marble. Then, harvest radishes every day or two until all the radishes are gone. If you have made a succession planting – that is, planting a portion of the seed packet ever week or two for a longer lasting yield – then the harvest may go on for months.

A common mistake is to leave these fresh radishes in the ground too long. Many radishes varieties have a tendency to become woody or pithy if left too long in the ground. Hot weather contributes to this problem. Flavor can get too hot, and radishes may crack. Harvest early and often!

Best time to pull radishes: after rain or irrigation. That way the soil is soft and radishes slip right out of the ground when you pull at the tops. Trying to harvest radishes from dry ground can be frustrating, because the green tops may snap off, making it more difficult to extract the edible roots from the soil.

Some gardeners like to harvesting radish seeds from their own plants for use the next year. If that is the case, be sure to grow only one radish variety in the garden, so that different radishes don’t cross-pollinate and lose their distinctive characteristics.

To harvest radish seeds, let the radishes grow flowers instead of pulling the radishes when they first ripen. Those flowers, once pollinated, will mature into seed pods. Stake up the stems so they don’t fall over and burst. As seed heads mature, cover them with lightweight cloth bags so thatbirds don’t eat all the seeds. When the seed pods dry, bring them indoors and store in a cool, dry place until the next growing season.

Harvesting radish varieties like daikon and green meat – the really big, slower growing Asian kinds – may require a garden fork. So that you don’t break these big roots in half, loosen all the soil around them, and then work the roots gently upward and shake off the dirt.

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