There are two main reasons for my salad radishes to split apart. Both reasons, though, are related to my not paying enough attention to the crop.
Some background — I planted the first salad radishes, several kinds, in late September, but more seeds have gone into the ground since then. Until now, all the radishes have been whole, unsplit, but a few have been a bit spongy, which means some radishes definitely stayed in the ground too long.
Of the five radishes in the nearby picture, only one has split, but the split is huge. The texture and flavor of this radish, the fourth from the left, was fine, but the little veggie was hard to clean. Dirt really stuck tight to that white, inner part of the root.
Reason 1: Radishes left in the ground too long
One reason salad radishes split is that they have been left in the ground too long. University of Illinois Extension says this about harvesting radishes:
Pull radishes when they are of usable size (usually starting when roots are less than 1 inch in diameter) and relatively young. Radishes remain in edible condition for only a short time before they become pithy (spongy) and hot.Radish, by University of Illinois Extension
Reason 2: Uneven watering
University of Illinois Extension adds this note: “A flush of moisture after a period of relative dryness also may cause mature roots to burst and split. Try to avoid uneven moisture availability.”
I haven’t done any watering this fall/winter. I haven’t needed to, because rain keeps falling and the soil never dries out. In the past week or so, though, the sky has dumped even more enormous quantities of water on north Georgia.
Radishes from my garden harvested on the 17th, just a week before that last batch, were not split. A couple of radishes harvested on the 26th were split. I am thinking that the massive rainfall contributed as much as age to the splitting.
How to have radishes that don’t split
You can probably guess the logical solution to the split-radish problem: harvest early and put your garden in a less rainy location. That first part of the solution is reasonable, but it can be impossible to move your garden to a less-rainy location.
It is possible, though, to block some of that rainfall with a row cover. A non-woven row cover will let some rainfall through, but not all of it. If I had been thinking more about my radishes, I would have set up a cover for them, to prevent the excessive rainfall from soaking their planting bed.
My spring-planted radishes grow faster than my fall-planted radishes. In fall and winter, I think I have oodles of time to harvest those little roots. They stay crisp and sweet much longer in fall than in spring! However, the amount of time they can stay in the ground, even in fall/winter — and still be delicious — is limited.
There is one variety that hasn’t split, in any year, in my garden: ‘French Breakfast’. Maybe its longer, narrower shape protects it from splitting. This variety is a little spicier than some of the round types, but ‘French Breakfast’ is great on an open-face butter sandwich.
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