Short version:

Radishes can be available as early as 4 weeks from seed. They’re fine in a big pot and you can also eat the greens too. The young shoots are great stir fried if you leave them to turn into triffids. The flowers and green seed pods also make a great snack. Kids find them to grow and they’re great to carve.

Radishes are a great quick crop veggie for these lockdown times. Being so small you could grow radishes almost anywhere. They can be used to fill up space in between other larger vegetables when they are still small. They are great in borders or round the edges of beds. They are compact enough for balconies and deep window boxes. You can eat all the radish, including the greens so it feels like a triumph to waste absolutely nothing. When you buy them in the shops, if you’re lucky enough to get ones with tops on (so you can see how fresh they are), chances are they will be too wilted to be particularly appetising. They can be grown through most of the year so are a great vegetable for winter and the hungry gap. One of my weirder bonus points is that radishes come out very cleanly (unlike beetroots, which I always have to hack at with a knife and peel).

How to grow

  1. Sow straight into the ground. Radishes don’t like having their roots disturbed. This is great as this saves time and effort transplanting.
  2. Ensure that the soil is stone free and has a good amount of compost. Radishes don’t like to dry out too much, nor do they like being waterlogged. Sounds like hard work but basically, they don’t do well straight into my rubbish heavy clay, stony soil. I prefer to grow them in pots anyway as they are small and can be put anywhere (like the shed roof). Soils with more compost retain water better without getting waterlogged. Radishes do have roots that extend beyond the base of the radish so have a pot that allows about a foot depth of compost.
  3. Sow the seeds in staggered rows about 1.5cm deep and leaving about 4cm between seeds. Many recommendations say to sow in rows and then thin out. You can do this and eat the thinnings but it ends up being more time consuming and I often find that pulling up a spare seedling will disturb the other seedlings around it. If you just sow them where you intend them to grow, then your job is done till harvesting (except for regular watering of course). Alternatively, you can also sow the occasional seed here and there around bigger plants. Because the radish is primarily a root veggie, it won’t have the same nutritional needs as fruiting plants. You can sow around aubergine, peppers, chillies and squashes if you start early enough.
  4. Water the seeds in and then ensure that the radishes don’t get too dry – moist but not waterlogged. Good compost and a pot with a hole in the bottom can reduce the worry.
  5. You can sow a few seeds regularly (every couple of weeks) to ensure a consistent supply of radishes in spring and in autumn. There’s not much point sowing in summer as it can get a bit hot so the plants will bolt. You’ll get small woody radishes and thin flower stems. If you leave some radishes past their best in late autumn they will provide you with leaves over winter. In early spring they will have plenty of new growth and flower shoots.

How to harvest

When conditions are suitable you could be harvesting lovely little radishes 4 weeks from sowing. Because I’m trying to use the garden as a larder I go and gather each day. With radishes you can check they’re ready by pushing the soil away from the base of the leaves. You can see how big the radish is. Around the size of a ping pong ball is ideal (depending on your radish variety). Pick the biggest ones and leave the rest to grow.

If you don’t harvest the radishes when they’re the right size, you can leave them to grow into shoots to be used like purple sprouting broccoli. You could sow them slightly further apart or harvest and leave well-spaced plants with this intention from the start. The flower shoots and young leaves make a great green vegetable.

The flowers themselves and green seed pods make a great snack.  

How it tastes

I absolutely love the radish for being one of the few vegetables where you can utilise absolutely every part of it. They are primarily grown for the roots, but the greens are fantastic. They’re no good in salads as the leaves have slightly prickly bumps on them but when they’re cooked these completely soften.

The radish itself, when raw has that horseradishy / mustardy taste. They can be quite hot. It will depend on the variety. They have a lovely crunch when raw and are tasty and cute sliced thinly into a salad. The whole family prefer them cooked. They taste like turnips and are great sautéed or roasted. They lose their spiciness when cooked.

The greens that come with the radishes can be thrown into the pan when the radish roots are almost done. They can be used to bulk up stir fries or blitzed into sauces. The young greens from a radish pulled for the root have a chard like taste. The thing that I find it most similar to is theChinese leaf – choi sum.

The flower shoots and young leaves can be used like purple sprouting broccoli. It’s a bit softer in texture and taste like a cross between broccoli and cooked radish.

The cute little flowers can be added to salads and taste a little like cabbage, but with a hint of sweetness to it.

The raw green seed pods are juicy and have that same slightly sweet cabbagy taste. I’m afraid I haven’t yet collected enough of them to have tried cooking with them.

I generally just snack on the flowers and seed pods raw whilst in the garden.

The older leaves are a bit more prickly and even with lots of cooking can still be a little weird on the tongue. These are better added into a blended soup.

I leave you with a last image. The radishes are great fun to carve because of the amazing contrast of the pink against the white. In case you can’t tell…er… it’s supposed to be a rose. I carved it for my little one… like the cat boy Halloween pumpkin. Incidentally, radishes are a fun one for kids. The seeds, whilst small, are still manageable. She likes to drop them into the holes that I’ve made in the compost. They seedlings appear within a week. They can be harvested quick and they’re easy for little ones to pull out. They’re also an amazing colour. Littl’un asked for a radish and called it her jewel. She won’t eat the radish itself, raw or cooked, but she does like the shoots of the overgrown ones.


Short version:

You can grow beansprouts from the dried mung beans that you buy for cooking. Growing just requires soaking overnight, draining in the morning and then rinsing and draining twice a day. Sprouts are ready to eat within a week.

I have never cooked using mung beans myself, though I have eaten plenty of things containing mung beans cooked by others, especially by my mum. In fact, the only times I’ve only ever bought mung beans were to grow beansprouts. Beansprouts are easily grown at home in a jar from the dried mung beans available in any large supermarket.

How to grow

Find a clean a jar (sterilising using a hot wash in the dishwasher is fine or washing in very hot soapy water will do). Yay for reusing and then recycling afterwards anyway. Please make sure your hands are clean when dealing with the sprouts. Add about a centimetre of dried mung beans, cover with water and soak overnight. The next morning drain.

Then every morning and evening rinse the beans with water, always pouring off as much excess as possible. The most easy way of doing this is to cover the top of the jar with a bit of old tights (clean ones of course) or cheese cloth, secured with an elastic band. All you have to do then is add water through the cloth and then drain through the cloth.

Really easy. Takes about half a minute each time. BUT… the sprouts you grow will be all curly and wibbly. This is because every time you tip the jar to drain you will change the orientation of the beans. The direction it is growing its roots in will constantly be changing.

There is another way to grow beansprouts that take a bit more prep. The daily rinsing and draining are as quick and easy though.

You need a plastic container. Poke or drill 5 – 20 holes in the base of the container, depending on its size and the size of your holes. You can use a bradawl (make sure it’s clean though – I wouldn’t put our old filthy bradawl anywhere near this project) or a heated pin. I have a woodburning tool that is really speedy. You also need something that can sit on top of the beans that is around the same size and shape of the container and a weight of some sort. I found this green flexible Tupperware lid and a weight from my fermenting kit. You will also need a tray or plate to collect any remaining water draining through the bottom.

You do this so that you keep the beans in place when they get rinsed. The roots will always (for most of them) be pointing down. The holes at the bottom mean that you never need to tip the container to drain the beans. The weight on top helps hold them in place, but it also gives something for the growing beans to push against. This makes the root thicker. Using this method, you will get straighter thicker beansprouts.

However, it is still hard to get beansprouts that look as lovely as the ones you get in the supermarket. Still, they are fresh, nutritious, low in calories, high in fibre and protein and you can still get them without going to the shop. You just need to get hold of mung beans first, but they keep for ages if stored well.   

Within a week you will have beansprouts. If you’re not ready to eat them after a week, you should give them a good wash and put them in the fridge as the tips will start to go brown.

How to eat

You can literally wash them and stir fry them, add them to noodles or soups. My favourite is to make fresh pickles. You blanch them till thoroughly cooked and add a dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil and vinegar (cider or balsamic is nice). You can also add a tiny bit of honey (or pinch of brown sugar) to sweeten.

At this stage they still had great texture in what was left of the bean. That part was nutty and sweet. The white root bit tasted fresh and juicy and had that crispness that you get in apples. The root doesn’t have a strong flavour. It was a bit lettuce like. The overall beansprout was a lovely addition to a lunch and the four year old even ate a few of the plain blanched ones. This particular batch was used in 3 meals.


I haven’t said chuck them in a salad. Unfortunately, the lovely warm environment that suits the growing of sprouts also suits unwelcome listeria, E.coli and salmonella. For safety it is best that you cook beansprouts rather than eat them raw in salads. This is the NHS advice here.

This applies to shop bought sprouts as well as home grown ones, unless they are labelled ready to eat. Some producers can take steps to ensure no harmful bacteria exists. I don’t know what those are, maybe they are irradiated or maybe the growing of the actual mung beans themselves is done under more sterile conditions. I’m afraid it isn’t a matter of technique. It’s to do with the bacteria that may exist on the beans. You have probably kept everything clean and looked after it well, but all it takes is for there to be one harmful bacterium on one of the dried mung beans. You can’t treat them to kill the bacteria as you will then kill the seed. The warm, damp environment is suitable for the pathogens. Luckily, cooking will kill them so feel free to sprout, COOK and eat!

Other sprouts

You can also sprout a plethora of other seeds. I’ve found this fun looking website that sells seeds specifically for sprouting:


I’m afraid I have never used the company so I don’t know personally if they are any good. I have eaten and like soya bean sprouts and alfalfa but I have only ever sprouted mung beans and I have the mung beans in my house at this time so I will continue to do so whilst stuck at home. If I get around to buying and sprouting any of the others, I shall let you know. Of if you have grown any that you recommend, please feel free to share in the comments.

Sweet potato leaves

Short version:

Not like the poisonous leaves of the potato, sweet potatoes can be grown for their sweet and juicy, spinach like, leaves and shoots. They can be grown from an existing shop bought organic sweet potato. These perennials like sunny, but not dry conditions and won’t survive a typical UK winter outside. Fertile soil will give you lots of leafy growth.


Despite their similarity in producing tubers that can be eaten and used for propagation, sweet potatoes (Latin name Ipomoea batatas) are very different to our normal potatoes (Latin name Solanum tuberosum). Potato plants, of the nightshade (or Solanaceae) family, have poisonous leaves. Even a tuber that gone green from exposure to sunlight can be poisonous. The leaves of the sweet potato, however, are edible, tasty and useful as a cut and come again leafy green. Blanched or lightly fried they are sweet and juicy and a little spinach like. Raw they can be a little bitter. Sweet potatoes themselves can be used like potatoes and are, of course, sweeter. I think they taste like a cross between a pumpkin and a potato with the texture of potatoes.

How to start growing

If you buy sweet potato plants to grow the tubers, you buy them as sweet potato ‘slips’. These are small shoots removed from a growing tuber. They’re not particularly cheap, but you are more likely to get varieties that will grow well in your climate. You can grow plenty of your own sweet potato slips from a shop bought sweet potato. The only proviso is that you need to buy an organic potato. Sweet potatoes are often treated to stop them from sprouting. Another issue you may face is that the variety you grow slips from may be from growing conditions that you do not have yourself. Because I was never expecting to be able to grow sweet potatoes, I was only growing for the leaves, this wasn’t an issue.

You fill the jam jar with water and wait. It is sometimes recommended that you change the water every couple of days, but I didn’t. In very hot weather, if the water evaporates quickly, the water will need to be topped up. They can sprout rather quickly.

That last photo was exactly a month after the tubers were first set up to sprout. There were no pictures in the intervening 2 weeks because we went away. That is why I transferred it to a pint glass – in order to be able to be able to leave it with plenty of water.

As you can see, within 4 weeks there were already some shoots and leaves that could be eaten. If there are any shoot without roots (slips) you can put the stems into water, and they will root. We ate them as a taste test instead.

Growing conditions

They were planted in some fertile compost in pots. As I had plenty of slips, I planted them in several different pots and in the edge of a big pot with a tree (a serviceberry) already in it. Fertile soil can lead to lots of leafy growth and less tuber production, but this is what I was aiming for. They need to be kept somewhere sunny, but also need regular watering in hot weather.  My pots were also going to be a bit small for particularly good tuber production.

Unfortunately, I started these far too late in the year (July), which meant that they didn’t have a very long growing season. I didn’t mind as I wasn’t aiming for sweet potatoes, only for the leaves and shoots to eat. The cold weather killed all but one pot that over wintered in the porch. It has just begun to grow its shoots again now in late March. This means I should have something to eat from it in the next few weeks.

So, like potatoes, sweet potatoes are perennial. However, if you leave potato tubers in the ground (and you always inevitably will, as it’s easy to miss the tiny ones that break away during harvest) you will get the plants reappearing each year. Unless your winter is very mild, any sweet potato tubers left in the ground won’t survive the winter. You either need to overwinter shoots in a pot inside or grow new sweet potato slips the next year.


There didn’t seem to be many problems with slugs or snails, but there was a bit of an issue with two tone spider mite. This unfortunately meant removing the affected leaves. I was sad to lose a couple of meals. Spider mite is fine if you catch it early. If you notice too late, you’ll basically have to remove all the leaves that you can see are even slightly affected. A water spray with a few drops of rosemary oil may have helped. They tend to run rampant in hot, dry weather. Just so you know, spider mite are not species specific. They affected both the sweet potatoes and physalis nearby. Make sure you know where you’ve planted the sweet potatoes as the not edible bindweed can look similar. Sweet potatoes are unfortunately not as invasive or persistent. The flowers apparently look similar too, but my plants never got that far.  

Use in the lock down

It’s helpful to be able to grow nutritious green shoots from a tuber you can buy in the supermarket, if your nearest garden centre is no longer open for plants and seeds. It doesn’t require any specialist equipment and you could have some greens to eat after a month. It’s entertaining for kids stuck at home to watch them sprout and it’s a useful educational tool for them to see both shoots and roots. It could be expanded to a lesson on cloning if you’re that way inclined (are you feeling rather sorry for my 4 year old?). If you leave some of the leaves and give it a long enough growing season you could then be eating the tubers in autumn.

I’m rather excited to see how the overwintered plants will grow. Hopefully, if I put them in a much bigger pot, or in the ground in a nice sunny spot they will grow potatoes this year. I won’t be too concerned if the tubers fail though, as I’m more interested in leaves for quick food in these difficult times, I don’t know whether this variety grows tubers well in this country (grows leaves well) and my little one refuses to eat sweet potatoes anyway.

Before lockdown I started a new sweet potato in a jar for slips, but so far there hasn’t been anything. I’ll have to wait till the next time we emerge from the house to buy food to secure another one. I wonder if I can find another fun purple one?