Do you love flowers that look like a flock of tiny butterflies? White with a blush of softest pale pink and green modernist pods to show these are no ordinary flowers. Yes indeed, we predict that these will all be the rage at next year’s Chelsea Flower Show or at least the Footscray Flower Market! As an added bonus you can eat these too (kids love ‘em), they are a superfood, as well as grow them in pots or garden beds with little trouble and at the right time of year have flowers within weeks. What is this fine plant you ask?
I just love the radish (Raphanus sativus). This year I have radish fever and have planted six different types starting with an early variety Cherry Belle, and just planted but not harvested yet White Icicle. Planting radish in Melbourne is so easy and you can have a continuous crop from late winter to autumn using no more than five minutes of your time.
They only really need a well drained or loamy soil to do well and a bit of sun, although in summer I grow them in light shade and they do very well. My favourite trick is to let them go to seed (to collect for next year’s seeds), while having planted them in the front garden among and behind the roses. They send up strong red stems covered for weeks in a haze of tiny white flowers that is a great filler between the spring bulbs finishing and everything else coming along.
In 1710 William Salmon M.D wrote that the radish “yet are great Enemies to Scurvy, Dropsy, Jaundice and Gout”*, all without the aid of modern analysis he was spot on with his recommendation as with a high water content and lots of vitamin C as well as phosphorus and zinc, radishes are a nourishing food for the tissues and can help keep your body hydrated and your skin looking fresh and healthy. Radishes also give you a significant amount of vitamin C to boost your defences against illness.
All good to know when you see your kids munching them down fresh from the garden and the happy pride they have after harvesting them so quickly after taking care to plant the little seeds. Grandpa taught us to eat them fresh with a sprinkle of salt (which Grandpa Salmon recommends too!) but my favourite family recipe is in salads but made this way they become a star ingredient and so pretty too.
Dr. Salmon’s Radish and Bean Salad
- 1 can white beans – cannellini or butter beans, rinsed
- Radish –As many as you can harvest that day, finely sliced into discs
- If you have them to hand any other salad vegetables you favour, I almost always include tomatoes and cucumber
- Herbs from the garden – finely chopped. I always use flat parsley and garden mint.
- Citrus – a squeeze and grate of the rind of lemon, orange or cumquat
- Season with a splash of olive oil, and a grind of white pepper and salt.
- Secret ingredient – I highly recommend the spice sumac to add an intangible citrusy flavour to this and many other dishes. Add just a pinch or two.
Take all these ingredients in the order listed and place lovingly in a bowl and mix. Add a squeeze more lemon or a scatter of feta cheese before serving. Can be served with steamed rice or lentils and thick yoghurt or it goes very well with barbeques.
A range of more unusual varieties can be had here:
*The English herbal, or, History of plants :containing their names, species, descriptions, places of growth, times of flowering and seeding, qualities, specifications, preparations, virtues, a complete florilegium, adorned with exquisite icons or figures. The whole in alphabetical order by William Salmon, M.D. 1710.