I am sure most avid fruit and veg growers will understand exactly what I mean when I talk about the anticipation and excitement of the first harvest of the season. Those few days before a harvest is properly ready, when it is nearly there but just needs another day or two to grow a little larger or ripen up seem to drag on and on.
For me, the first harvest of 2018 was even more long-awaited than usual. Not only did the cold weather at the start of the year delay sowing and therefore, harvesting, I had also not cultivated any winter crops for the late 2017 / early 2018 season. In fact, the last time I harvested anything from my plot was back in October. This was far too long ago for my liking. Couple that with the great Spinach vs Slugs warfare which appears to have broken out on my plot (to the detriment of the spinach), I began to wonder if I was ever going to be picking any of my own fresh veg this year.
Thankfully, this is where the humble radish came up trumps. This quick growing little burst of peppery goodness can always be relied upon. Like many people, I sow radishes in any little spot that they will fit. This means they often end up in between other slow growing crops such as cabbages or nestled in the corner of onion beds. The reason for sowing in these kind of areas is that radishes are notoriously quick to grow. Whats starts as a minuscule little seed will, within a matter of a few short weeks, develop into a fully grown, ready to eat, healthy snack! If you sow these seeds in between slower growing crops they will be ready to harvest before your other crops need the space and you will have made the most of what would otherwise have been unused land.
This year, I sowed a row of radishes in one of my tiered beds, in an area that will eventually be handed over to spring onions. I am sowing my spring onion seeds in succession so that I have a useful supply throughout late spring and summer, without any gluts or shortages, which would no doubt occur if I sowed them all at the same time. I already had three rows of spring onions growing in various different stages of development, from just sown to growing well and I knew that I would have a few weeks before I needed to sow any more. Rather than leave the earth bare, I popped in a single, short row of radish seeds.
Within just a few days, the radish seedlings were already poking their heads above the soil. They put on strong growth, helped by bouts of heavy rain and strong sunshine and they had soon over taken many of my other seedlings, including the aforementioned spinach, which normally grows quickly and without issue.
While I had expected to be harvesting lettuce leaves and spinach well before the radish, unfortunately this did not happen. The slugs certainly enjoyed the salad bed and almost decimated most of my young seedlings. In fact, 2018 seems to have been one of the worst years for slugs on my plot, which is disappointing to say the least. Thankfully the spinach seems to have started to beat the slugs and is now putting on strong growth, but it has been delayed in production, much to my annoyance!
However, the radishes did not suffer this fate and it only took in the region of four weeks for those tiny seedlings to develop into plants that were ready to harvest and harvest them we did!
On the 2nd June I took a trip to the allotment with my Mother and my two children. I had known that the radishes were nearly ready and when looking at them on this warm, Saturday afternoon I knew that the time had come! Their beautiful, deep red colour was bulging above the soil in the perfect “just smaller than a golf ball” size. I told my Daughter that they were ready for harvesting and in no time at all she was kneeling at the bed, happily pulling them out.
I had intended to take them home and chop them into a salad or broth, but my Daughter put a stop to that. She munched her way through two or three of them in the short time that we were at the plot and then announced that she wanted to take the rest of them to school as her playtime snack. I couldn’t decline her request for this healthy school snack and as radishes are not my most favourite of vegetables, I was happy to hand them all over for her to enjoy.
While I won’t personally be enjoying this first harvest, I am overjoyed to have finally picked something in 2018. It has been far too long coming, but I am hoping that now the time is here, things will continue to be productive for a few extra weeks to make up for the slow start to the year. It won’t be long until I am picking spinach and spring onions, the tomatoes are flowering and the chilli plants already have tiny chillies growing on them. I think I can now say with confidence, that my 2018 harvesting season is at last, upon me!