Growing Purple Radishes

Purple radishes have bold flavor, rich color, and greens that beg to be used. Include them in any sunny, well-watered vegetable garden.
By: Nan Chase

Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus

Purple on the outside, white on the inside. Purple radish varieties are varied and vigorous, letting vegetable gardeners with lots of sun and water grow a crop that tastes good and is useful in both cooked dishes and raw salads.

Radishes are one of the first things to plant in the garden each spring. The method is simply to sow seed right in the newly worked soil; a quarter or half inch deep will do, with seeds placed about half an inch apart.

Later thinnings will stretch the space between radish plants to about an inch or so. That’s just right for growing purple radishes. Begin planting as soon as soil has thawed, often as early as March. Plant again when soil has cooled off from summer’s heat for a second crop, say, around late August.

There are even some purple radish varieties that take longer to grow and thus can be planted in midsummer for a late fall or a winter harvest.

Let’s look at some of the main players:

  • Amethyst. A mild-flavored 30-day radish that matures as a round root of an inch. Resists pithiness.
  • Bora King. Purple through and through, including the entire flesh interior, this long-season daikon-type radish is a major health food. Crisp and flavorful.
  • Purple Plum. Another 30-day radish, this lovely plant has an elongated oval root, white on the inside and quite mild in taste. The greens are a delightful bright green.
  • KN-Bravo. Here’s a long-season hybrid, 45 days to maturity, that has a light purple stripe through the middle of the root. Grows to nine inches long, and quite stout.
  • Easter Egg and Easter Egg II. These seed mixes often include purple selections, so plant them to see how they do.
  • Violet de Gournay. A yummy French heirloom that grows nearly a foot long, this dark purple beauty and be planted in summer, harvested close to winter. What a performer.
  • Plum Purple. Economical and lots of fun for the market garden, this recent introduction has round purple roots. So unusual.
  • Starburst. Let’s include a radish that is white on the inside but dark pink – let’s call it close to purple – on the great big round interior. Starburst is a very long season radish, at 60 days to maturity, so plant this one in late spring and let it grow until autumn.

In addition to lots of sun and water, radishes appreciate a moderately fertile soil that is well worked and includes plenty of leaf mold or other compost. Succession plantings, with some seeds from each packet planted every week or so, will give you lots more radishes of the right size.

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