Rat tail radish is a tasty plant with a funny name.
Forget those crunchy, bland, red radishes found on relish plates. They’re tasteless in comparison to Rat tail radish pods.
Radishes that have pods 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.
Podding radishes (Raphanus caudatus) are like others in the family in that they need cool weather for best 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 pods when they are tender, before they become fibrous. The 4- to-12-inch long pods are most crisp and pungent when about the thickness of a pencil.
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.
Podding radishes were planted in most gardens during the Civil War era, but faded from favor in the early 1900s. 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 1980s. They’re crunchy additions to that first spring salad and fast-growing 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.