Radish (Raphanus sativus)
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The radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family that was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. They are grown and consumed throughout the world, and in addition to their use as a food, radishes have uses as an alternative treatment for a variety of medial conditions, and the seeds can be used as a biofuel. Radishes have numerous varieties, varying in size, color and duration of required cultivation time.
Although the radish was a well-established crop in Hellenistic and Roman times, which leads to the assumption that it was brought into cultivation at an earlier time, Zohary and Hopf note that “there are almost no archeological records available” to help determine its earlier history and domestication. Wild forms of the radish and its relatives the mustards and turnip can be found over west Asia and Europe, suggesting that their domestication took place somewhere in that area. However Zohary and Hopf conclude, “Suggestions as to the origins of these plants are necessarily based on linguistic considerations.”
Summer radishes mature rapidly, with many varieties germinating in 3-7 days, and reaching maturity in three to four weeks. A common garden crop in the U.S., the fast harvest cycle makes them a popular choice for children’s gardens. Harvesting periods can be extended through repeated plantings, spaced a week or two apart.
Radishes grow best in full sun and fertile, acidic to neutral soil. They are in season from April to as late as October in the northern hemisphere. As with other root crops, tilling the soil helps the roots grow. Most soil types will work, though sandy loams are particularly good for winter and spring crops, while soils that form a hard crust can impair growth. The depth at which seeds are planted affects the size of the root, from 1 cm deep recommended for small radishes to 4 cm for large radishes.