Forget those crunchy, bland, red, pink and white radishes found on relish plates. They’re tasteless in comparison to Rat Tail radish pods.
In another couple of weeks, I’ll be planting radishes that grown for their pods, not their tubers.
Plants produce abundant foliage, and tall flower stalks quickly early in the spring.
When the lavender flowers are pollinated, they turn into crispy pods with the signature mustard-nuanced flavor all in the radish family have.
Rat Tail radish pods are crunchy and full of flavor.
Credit: All photos by Doreen G. Howard
Podding radishes (Raphanus caudatus) are like other radishes in that they need cool weather for top flavor and very cool soil (as soon as it can be worked) for best growth. But, podding radishes tolerate heat better than root radishes when temperatures soar.
Rat Tail pods begin to form in 40 to 50 days, lower ones ripening first. Pick the teardrop-shaped pods when they are tender, before they become fibrous. The 4- to-12-inch long pods are most crisp and flavorful when about pencil-thick.
Pod colors range from green to green mottled with lavender to purple. The purple ones are the spiciest.
Another podding radish, Munchen Bier (55 days) also produces a large white turnip-shaped root when planted late in the summer. When soil turns cooler, flower stalks and mild pods form, too. The radish root is traditionally sliced thin, dipped into salt and served with beer in Germany.
Podding radishes were planted in most gardens during the Civil War era, but faded from favor in the early 1900’s. Originally from Java, they migrated to this country with immigrants and gathered favor with gardeners quickly. Heirloom enthusiasts, including me, rediscovered podding radishes in the 1980’s.
The pods are crunchy additions to that first spring salad and fast-to-grow pickle material. Packed with Vitamin C, podding radishes also offer plenty of other low-cal, high-fiber nutrients.
Here’s my favorite radish pod pickle recipe. You can make these in as little as eight hours.
2 cups of pods
1 tsp. sea salt
2 TBS. rice wine vinegar
Ground black pepper
Sesame seed oil
Put pods in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Drain accumulated liquid and rinse to remove the salt. Pat dry with paper towels and return to bowl. Add rice wine vinegar, a dash or two of ground black pepper and a couple drops of sesame seed oil. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.
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Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.