Peter Rabbit loved radishes.  We have watched him (many times over) in ‘Tasty Radishes’, ‘The Radish Robbers’, ‘Running for Radishes’, ‘The Biggest Radish Event’.  We’ve held off buying the Peter Rabbit Radish Print – ‘a beautiful mounted print of Peter Rabbit eating radishes and a quote reading “…and then he ate some radishes.” ‘

We have a large Peter Rabbit dice made from card. Each one of the 6 sides has a stuck-on picture related to Peter Rabbit, and an action instruction. ‘Hide’, ‘Run’, ‘Jump’, ‘Skip’, ‘Hop’, ‘Eat radishes’.   One of us, me or my 2 or 4 year old grandchildren throw the dice, read the action, and take the action. ‘Eat radishes’ is a favourite.   I have to make sure I have radishes in the fridge, for when the dice comes out.  If not, a carrot is an acceptable but poor substitute – even though Peter Rabbit loves carrots too.  In fact, he likes almost any crop that Mr McGregor grows. 

Watching Mr McGregor trying to guard his growing veg from the rabbits gave us the idea of growing radishes ourselves.  My grandson, in particular, loves radishes.  My grand-daughter is more of an olive-person, but will take on radish on occasion.  

Last year we sowed some radish seeds in a wooden orange crate filled with potting compost.  I was a total beginner gardener at that stage, and didn’t know about the perils of growing radishes – no, not rabbits in our built up, urbanised, London location –  the slugs (‘these feed on the young seedlings and you’ll see the tell-tale slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves’), the flea beetle, (‘leaves are covered in small holes and damaged areas turn brown. Seedlings are particularly susceptible’), the brassica downy mildew, (this is a common disease of brassicas, as they are not in the ground so long. The leaves will turn yellow, with white, fuzzy patches on the undersides. The root may also turn brown.) 

We didn’t know that radishes don’t like intermittent watering, nor that they needed to be planted in short drills, 1cm (½in) deep and about 2.5cm (1in) apart. 

Last year our ‘crop’ was a disappointing disaster.   No radishes, just long, skinny tap roots (albeit radish coloured), with slug munched leaves. 

In the spirit of trying to teach my grandchildren, to experiment, try again, see what happens, learn from the experience – good or bad.  We decided to have another go this year. 

Buying radish seeds at the local garden centre was a whole morning’s activity.   The garden centre is an Adventureland for children.  Ours has an aquatics centre, so long before we got to radish seeds we were feeding the carp, looking in all the other fish tanks, examining all the things that could go in a fish tank – especial fascination with the Paw Patrol ornaments ‘suitable for fresh and salt water aquariums’.   I managed a glimpse of the aquatic plants that I need to know about for my horticulture exams, but before I got very far with those I was dragged off to look at the shark litter bin.

Next came the delight of the water features – an amazing array of cascades, bowls, fountains and more – perfect for dabbling fingers in.   And then the garden ornaments and sculptures – flamingos, gorillas, rabbits, hedgehogs, elephants and not a gnome in sight.  Each creature was marvelled on and patted, with some arguments on which was the best animal.

Finally – to the radish seeds.  Several varieties on sale, and I didn’t have my crib sheet on which were fail safe, pest and disease deterrent ones.  After much negotiation we settled on (Chinese) Mantanghong F1,  – I didn’t notice the F1 which meant they were fairly expensive, and Crunchy Mix. 

To the tills to pay, but stop – bird feeders and pet food dishes to pick up and wonder at.  Then, the enticing children’s garden trowels, crocs, and trugs.  We got to the till, unfortunately bordered with liquorice allsorts, dolly mixture, cinder toffee and other alluring and ‘not allowed by Mum’ items.  

Finally, we got home with the seeds.  I’d decided on putting them in pots – in hindsight the wrong choice.  Nevertheless, the joy on my grandson’s face as, wearing his swimming goggles, he wielded a hammer to a broken earthenware pot to make crocks for the bottom of the pot, was captured and sent to Mum.  

The seeds planted, we waited anxiously for germination.  Everyday after school, there’s been a meticulous examination of progress and one pulling out to check what’s going on.  Sadly, the expensive F1s look no better than last years try-out.  We’ve now got a second lot going in the ground which are looking a lot more promising. 

After school today we’re sowing the Crunchy Mix seeds following the RHS advice ‘It’s best to sow radish seeds little and often, for small but continuous harvests. Aim to provide consistent conditions to ensure they grow well without any checks to their growth.’  

I’m hoping our third attempt will yield the fine radishes that tempt Peter Rabbit. In the absence of rabbits in this neighbourhood, I think we may even get to eat them. 

And here’s a recipe we’ll try as butter is a big favourite too (spooned off the block and munched).

Butter Poached Radishes
Serves 5 as a side dish
10 – 12 radishes, with the stems and greens cut off
1 cup melted butter
1 – 2 cups water
Sea salt
Black pepper

  1. Arrange the radishes into a thick bottomed pan and pour in the melted butter and enough of the water so that the radishes are just covered.
  2. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring the pan to a boil and then reduce to a low heat to continue simmering. Have a little taste of the poaching liquid at this time and add in more salt or pepper if necessary.
  4. Allow to simmer for approximately 10 – 15 minutes or until radishes are soft and losing their bright red colour (though, mine did not really for some reason). During this time remember to turn the radishes in the pan so all sides poach evenly.
  5. Serve the radishes with a little of the poaching liquid and a sprinkle of salt. Best served straight away!

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