When we moved to Long Beach, MS, we did not know that it had once been known as the Radish Capital of America. That information appears in the history of the town as posted on the website of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Museum of Photography.
Had we known, we might have tried to move here sooner. My Joe loves radishes.
I did some hunting in the old newspaper archives (online) of the Library of Congress to see what additional information I could find about the radishes here. This is some of what I found:
From the Mississippi Gulf Coast the Northern market is supplied with the early radish and lettuce, beans and potatoes. Long Beach is called the radish town. The early radish built up this agricultural community, and prosperity smiles upon this well-built-up town, with its thrifty and enterprising citizens from the North and West, who have invested both their money and brawn in the soil.The Sea Coast Echo, October 2, 1909, in Bay St. Louis, MS
The truckers of Longbeach and other coast points are shipping a great deal of radishes, lettuce and other produce to Northern markets and receiving handsome figures for it. They are in a position to reach markets early and get the highest possible prices. Think of Mississippi shipping vegetables in January, and that, too, raised without the aid of glass or other artificial methods. It is a great old State and the sooner our people fully appreciate that fact the better for all concerned.The Oxford Eagle, February 1, 1906, in Oxford, MS — note: “truckers” refers to truck farmers
Long Beach, Miss., March 12 – Thirteen cars of vegetables were shipped from this parish last week, radishes, lettuce, shallots, carrots, turnips and cabbage making the variety.St. Tammany Farmer, March 18, 1911, St. Tammany, LA — note: “cars” refers to train cars, not automobiles
The Long Beach truck farmers are rushing shipments of radishes to the Northern markets for Thanksgiving Day.The Port Gibson Reveille, November 18, 1909, Port Gibson, MS
And then there was this great little story:
Long Beach, Miss., is the home of the radish king in the Mississippi Valley. His name is Richard Inglis, and five years ago he visited Mississippi on an excursion from Youngstown, O. Having his eyes with him, he perceived such wasted opportunities that he paid $6 an acre for 20 acres of sandy loam which seemed suited for vegetables. Since then he has purchased 200 acres adjoining his original purchase, but he had to pay $35 an acre as the penalty for demonstrating to the natives what the land was really worth. There is more money in radishes than in anything else, because they mature in 20 to 50 days, according to the weather and the amount of fertilizer, and four crops can be raised on the same ground during the same season. Smith and Inglis have raised as high as 100 barrels of radishes to the acre, counting 600 bunches of five each to the barrel.The Democratic Advocate, April 9, 1909, Westminster, MD
The radish that was grown here back in the early 1900s, that boosted the livelihoods of so many farmers, was not one of the small round radishes that we mostly see in stores today. Instead, it was a longer radish.
In 2018, MS Extension published an article about a search for the radish variety that made Long Beach famous; MS Extension Horticulturist Gary Bachman determined that the ‘Cincinnati Market Radish’ is the likeliest candidate. Not too surprisingly, after I read that article last spring, when I was learning about the history of Long Beach, I ordered a packet of seeds for the Long Beach ‘Cincinnati Market’ radishes.
Other information gleaned from the old newspaper pages indicated that most of the truck farms and market gardens were on the north side of town. The soil there is more suited to farming than is the sand dune where my garden is located. However, my sandy yard has produced an abundance of radishes for us in our first year of gardening here.
I think I will be able to harvest good radishes from the yard at least 8 months out of the year, possibly more. The problem months will be the hot ones, in summer.
My copy of the Whole Seed Catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds arrived today. The radish section is full of beautiful radish varieties. I will be re-ordering ‘Malaga’ radish seeds this year, because they are delicious and my current seed packet is almost empty, but I am going to hand the catalog to Joe to let him pick a couple more varieties to try.