Radishes are a wonderful crop to grow in a polytunnel. This root vegetable is swift to grow and can be used in a wide range of salads and other dishes throughout the growing season. Since they are so quick to germinate and so fast-growing, radishes can be fantastic for filling small gaps in your polytunnel and for making the most of every inch of space. But what many polytunnel gardeners do not know is that radishes do not only provide a root crop. If radishes go to seed, they can provide a more abundant secondary harvest.
The bulb beneath the ground is not the only part of the radish that can be eaten. The foliage is edible and the younger leaves are good in a mixed leaf salad. Meanwhile, the older leaves can be treated much like spinach. What is more, if left to flower then each radish seed will not just produce one root but will supply a much more abundant edible harvest.
What Happens When Radishes Go To Seed?
When they bolt and begin to go to seed, radishes will send up long flowering shoots. After flowering, each radish plant will produce literally hundreds of juicy seed pods. All radishes will do this, whether they are French breakfast or a small globe variety like Cherry Belle. Though there is one variety, Rat’s Tail radish, that is grown specifically for its long, tender seed pods. Whichever kind of radish you choose in your garden, you will be amazed by the size of the harvest possible from just one plant.
What To Do With Radish Seed Pods
Radish seed pods are crisp and juicy with a slight radish bite. Yet they, unlike the roots, will not get too fiery and fierce, even in hot weather. They taste a bit like sugar snap peas, with just a hint of peppery sting. They can be eaten straight from the plant or in a salad. Radishes are also good as a snack at a summer barbecue or stir-fried with peas and other vegetables. Arguably, the seed pods are actually more versatile in the kitchen than the more commonly used part of the radish. Just remember not to keep them lying around for too long – like many other harvests at this time of year, the seed pods are best eaten right after you pick them.
Collecting Radish Seeds For Planting The Following Year
If you can bear not to eat them all, you can leave a few radish seed pods to fully ripen and dry out. By selecting the seeds from a few of the best plants, you can have a free supply to plant next year and by doing this year after year, you will rear radishes perfectly suited to your garden.
Do you let some radishes go to seed? What do you do with the seed pods? Let us know your ideas for eating this more unusual radish edible in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.