Around the Veg Plot and Reaping Radishes

Despite the cold snap we've had this week (I had to give in and put the heating back on although I refuse to get my furry winter boots back out!) there's been a lot going on in the vegetable plot.

The carrots (Flyaway variety) that I sowed three weeks ago have finally germinated. I feared they wouldn't make it as it turned very cold and wet just after sowing, but I now have three rows of carrots and I thinned them out today (no matter how carefully I think I spaced them, invariably I end up with a bunch somewhere).

I also sowed some rows of perpetual spinach, some pak choi (mei-qing variety). As I don’t want everything ready at the same time I just do 4 or 5 plants at a time, and then in a couple of weeks I’ll do the same again. This successional sowing should produce a steady supply to harvest rather than a glut all at once.

Today I also sowed what seems like a ridiculous amount of sweet corn (84) but we love it and no matter how many I plant it's never enough. I sowed them (Honey Bun variety) directly outside, in blocks rather than rows because they're wind pollinated and so they need the chance to pollinate each other. It is much harder for the wind to do that if they're planted in a single row. I help the pollination out myself later in the year with the aid of an old envelope, I’ll show you how in a later blog.

I've sown lots of borlotti beans in fibre pots and they’re all in the cold frame. After they've germinated I'll plant them out when it's warmer (assuming it does get warmer!) I also have some small bell pepper plants in the cold frame; it's getting crowded in there!

The pumpkin and squash seeds that had been camped out on my windowsills indoors and then graduated to the cold frame, were today planted out in their final spots. I dug a large hole for each, filled with well-rotted manure and planted each one into the manure filled hole.

Squash and pumpkins are exceptionally greedy, so they'll appreciate this start to the growing season. I've also covered them with plastic bell cloches for a few days, just to ease them into the transition from the cold frame to the wild.

Even with the increased planting and germinating, there still isn't anything to eat! Usually one of the first crops that everyone ready is radish. These ones, protected from the pesky wood pigeons by chicken wire, aren’t ready yet but it won’t be long. I always feel sorry for radishes when I walk through the allotment. Everyone grows them because they're a quick and easy crop, just perfect for getting and keeping children interested in growing vegetables because they’re ready to eat from about four weeks after sowing. However, after the first few pickings they're often left to get big, woody and to my mind, overly peppery and eventually they end up in the compost heap. I suspect it's because they're most often just plonked in a salad and that gets boring rather quickly.

There's a lot you can do with radishes, from roasting to cooking in curries. Here's a delicious way to eat them. I'm hesitating to call this a recipe, because it doesn't really involve more than making toast. But it's as delicious as it is simple and you could dress it up as a starter for a dinner party, or leave it looking rustic for a simple summer lunch.

Radish Butter Ciabatta

Serves 2

200 g radishes
75g very soft unsalted butter
Small ciabatta loaf
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Wash and remove the roots from the radishes. Snip off the leaves, but it’s helpful to leave a stub of the leaf stalk to hold while grating.
  • Split the ciabatta and lightly toast both sides under the grill.
  • Grate the radishes using the largest holes on a box grater, holding onto the leaf stalk should help save your fingers on smaller radishes!
  • Tip the grated radishes onto a wad of paper towels, and press with more paper towels to remove the excess liquid.
  • Combine the soft butter and radishes in a bowl, mix well and then spread onto the toasted bread.
  • Sprinkle with a little sea salt (I use Maldon) and black pepper.


Varieties mentioned in this blog post: Carrot Flyaway, Perpetual Spinach, Sweetcorn Sugar Buns, Radish Seeds.

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