Growing Icicle Radishes
Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus
The white icicle radish has a lot of charm. Slender and long, mild-flavored yet with a hint of pepper, this variety deserves a spot in the vegetable garden.
Famously, white icicle radishes really are snow white inside and out. Their shape is more like a carrot than a typical radish: slim and tapered, pointed at the root tip, and about the size atmaturity of a person’s finger (4-6 inches).
Also like a carrot, the long white radish has crisp flesh, so crisp that you can snap it in half. That characteristic makes the icicle radish good for grating into piquant salads. Although often mild in flavor icicle radishes can have a peppery twang which some people enjoy with a generous accompaniment of salt, to bring out the juices.
The nutritious greens of the icicle radish, especially the short top variety, are generally smaller than those of red table radishes, and when washed thoroughly these leaves can be added to any country-style salad. They can also be steamed or braised, or added to soups and stews. Don’t waste a bit of this fine radish type.
Like other radishes, white icicle radishes germinate very quickly – in a matter of five days or so – and grow to maturity in 23 to 30 days. Unlike other radishes, the icicle radishes don’t grow tough, pithy, and bitter as fast as other kinds. That’s a good thing for planting seeds later in spring without having to worry about over-supply. It’s also fine to plant white icicle radish seeds a second time, in later summer, for a fall crop.
There’s not as much variety in white icicle radish seeds as there may be in table radishes or Asian radishes. But here are some features of the mostly widely available types:
- White Icicle, also known as Lady Fingers. Growing to six inches at maturity, the standard white icicle radish dates back as an heirloom to the mid-1800’s. That means it is reliable in the garden, given proper growing conditions. Does surprisingly well in summer heat.
- White Icicle Short Top. Not quite as heat-resistant as the white icicle radish, the short top matures at about five inches and remains mild in flavor. The tops make a delicious side dish. When grown in optimum conditions this radish has quite a bit of heft, with a one inch diameter.
All radishes grow best when planted in deeply-worked soil that contains plenty of organic material like composted leaf mold or rotted straw and manure. Radishes need full sun, and prefer soil that has been broken up and raked free of stones or lumps of clay.
Good drainage is key, as is abundant moisture throughout the growing season. Do not over-fertilize or the roots might not be well-formed; the green tops will get more of the extra nutrition instead.