Monday, June 10, 2013

THE ANSWER MAN: Watermelon Radishes

The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (6/6/2013)

Q.  Oh! Yoo-hoo there, Answer Man, Louella Kardashian here.  Remember me!  I’m back again!  It’s watermelon radishes this time.  My hubby, Longfellow, feels he’s nearing his final fashion show.  Up here you’d call it the last roundup.  Anyhoo, he’s been feeling guilty about the way he spent his life, especially making oodles of money in the low fashion industry.  As he says, “Givin’ ‘em want they want.”  Having spent his life with low fashion types, you know, the butt crack crowd, he wants to meet his Maker with a touch of class.  The nabobs call it hochkultur, that’s German for high culture in case you didn’t know.  A cultural upgrade.  I just can’t image God being low class, you know, Bach and Shakespeare and Gorgonzola Encrusted Filet.  So I looked around for something high-toned to soak up a little culture.   


A.  I’m not sure of your point.  I’m neither a fashionista nor an eschatologist although I’m with you about the butt crack crowd.


Q.  Patience, Answer Man, I haven’t gotten to my point.  After nosing around, I discovered the Flagstaff Symphony Guild.  I thought that if anyone could upgrade us culturally it would be people who liked that kind of music.  I wangled an invitation as guests to one of their meetings.  You’d never guess where they have their meetings?  No brown bag church basement.  Lunch at the Cottage Place.  Talk about class.  Such yummy food.  And what a delightful group of people!  It’d been so long since we had had intelligent conversations with thoughtful people over a delightful lunch that we didn’t know what to say.  Plumbers’ drooping jeans splitting at the seams didn’t work.  You should join.  Might improve your manners after the way you’ve treated me before.  You were rude to me about the elk and deer eating my tulips, and I was hurt. 


A.  You’re right, I’m not a patient man, and I am on the side of the elk and deer.  Will you get to the point?


Q.  Oh!  Don’t be so jumpy.  Anyhoo, we had a spinach salad with watermelon radishes and a Marsala vinaigrette dressing.  Longfellow thought they were sliced kiwi.  They were so tasty, not as strong as regular radishes which I’ve never liked.  Do you know anything about watermelon radishes? 


          A.  Well, I’m happy that you’re finding a place for yourself up here in Flagstaff.  Maybe it’s the clean air.  Smog tends to lower one’s tastes.   Now, to watermelon radishes which are officially called Raphanus sativus.   Indeed, they add a touch of class.

          First, they’re easy to grow.  Now’s the time to plant the seeds when it starts to warm up.  They’re really an heirloom Chinese daikon although they look like a parsnip, a princess incognito, but when opened up, they’re a gorgeous fuchsia.  Unlike a lot of beauties, they’re low maintenance.  Fast growing, they need sun.  Before planting in compost enriched soil, dig in a 5-10-10 fertilizer.  Plant the seeds about ½ an inch deep, and then thin the plants to 3 inches apart.  A couple of weeks after they sprout, use a 20-10-0 fertilizer.  Unlike tomatoes, where the fruit is eaten, with radishes the plant is eaten so it needs lots of nitrogen.  They’re best eaten when about 2½ to 3 inches in diameter.  They should mature in about 53 days and can be sown throughout the summer. 

          They’re crunchy and sweet with a hint of spice, a very sophisticated vegetable.  Nutritious, they stimulate digestion and are thus especially useful after a dinner with too much fat and alcohol.  They also help with cholesterol levels and blood pressure.  They’re just right for those who live too well and the fast food low fashion types.  Eaten fresh, cooked, roasted, pickled, they shine as crudités.  They go well with  apples, cheese, vinaigrette, bacon, and cucumbers.

          They’re good for you, taste great, and are high-toned.  Along with Bach, Shakespeare, and Gorgonzola Encrusted Filet, you can add a spinach salad with watermelon radishes for that hochkultur encounter you’re planning for the end of the runway.


Q.     You don’t have to be such a smart ass, Answer Man.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2013

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at

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