Seed Farm Variety Feature: Ostergruss Radish

Posted on Monday, 7 June 2021 under Stories Featured

Ostergruss is one of the unique varieties of radishes we are growing at our Research and Education Seed Farm in the 2021 season. The Ostergruss radish originates from Germany and translates to ‘Easter Greetings,’ as their first harvest generally occurs around this holiday. This variety is usually planted in early spring but they can be successfully grown throughout the year in mild climates as they are frost tolerant.

This radish is easily identified by its bright colour and tapered carrot-like appearance. In North America, they typically present a bright magenta pink colour although Ostergruss radish comes in an array of pinks, reds, and purple/red hues. Like many radishes, white flesh is hidden under its colourful exterior.

Ostergruss radishes have an excellent initially sweet then mild peppery flavour that lends itself well to raw and cooked meals. Its long shape makes it easy to cut in half and enjoy with a dip as you would with carrots and hummus. These radishes are also commonly incorporated into salads and mixed with cooked root vegetables for a savoury dish. Pickling Ostergruss radish is a terrific way to extend its shelf life. Even the green tops of the radish are edible and can be stir-fried or steamed for a lovely side dish.

Ostergruss Radish

Photo courtesy of BC Eco-Seed Co-op / Glorious Organics

As a biennial, typically two seasons would be required to grow radish seeds. However, we plan to produce seeds in just one year by cool storing the radish roots for 30 days then replanting. Radishes, like many other biennials, have a vernalization requirement which means that to go to flower and produce seed they must first be exposed to cold temperatures. By storing the roots in a cooler for a month we can effectively trick the plant into going to seed in just one season.

This goal is dependent on the Ostergruss radishes reaching an adequate size by mid-June. Ideally, we would have sowed them earlier in the year or even late last season to use this method. However, at the time we were planning to produce watermelon radish seeds this summer but unfortunately due to fluctuating winter temperatures, the roots did not store well. Farming is full of surprises and it is important to be able to pivot to your circumstances. If the radishes do not size up in time for this summer we can over winter them to replant next year.

After replanting, radishes grow tall and display many flowers beloved by bees. In 2020, our flowering black radish attracted pollinators of all kinds. An often forgotten advantage of seed production are the ecosystem benefits of leaving plants to flower. Oftentimes annual crops like radish, carrots, and cabbage are harvested before they have the chance to bloom. Leaving a few plants to bolt and produce seed is a great way to provide for our pollinators and increase seed security.

Resources

OsterGruss Radish Information

Organic Seed Alliance: Principles and Practices of Organic Radish Seed Production in the Pacific Northwest

Turkish Journal of Agriculture and Forestry: The influence of vernalisation time and day length on flower induction of radish (raphanus sativus L.) under controlled and field conditions