This past fall I learned about an interesting spring crop I had never tried before, a unique radish native to South East Asia. Most of the Asian vegetables I have grown in my garden have been huge successes. So I just had to try these funky radishes. I am very glad that I did. Burmese Rat-Tail Radishes, Raphanus sativus, var. caudatus have been a beautiful and delicious addition to our spring garden.
Rat tailed radishes are grown for their edible seed pods (technically called siliques) and flowers, instead of typical radish roots. When the plants bolt they produce massive amounts of beautiful airy flowers followed by seed pods. These pods are sweet, crispy, slightly spicy, delicious and shaped like rat’s tails.
These distinctive vegetables are deserving of a more appetizing epithet than “rat-tail.”. When I started writing this post I was bothered by the name and the dishes I imagined every time I typed “rat-tail”. So, I decided to research their history and find something better to call them. There are several more appealing names used for these beauties: serpent radish, tail podded radish, spicy bean, and aerial radish. Of these names, aerial radish seems like a perfect choice. I will refer to them as such from now on. Why don’t the seed companies do the same? If they did, more people would be growing these fabulous crops. Nobody wants to come over for a dinner of rat-tails. But, if you did serve “aerial radish siliques” at a dinner party, guests would be amazed by these delicious pods.
I have been surprised by how tender and crisp the radish pods are. Their texture is fabulous! Raw or lightly cooked, they are vegetable perfection. Aerial radishes have been a perfect addition to many dishes in our kitchen. We have enjoyed them raw in salads, stir-fried, on tacos and roasted with mixed vegetables. By the time our plants are finished producing, I will probably have deep fried, steamed and grilled them as well.
I am currently picking a bowl of radish pods everyday…from just 3 plants! If I end up with enough of them at one time this spring, I will definitely be making pickled radishes. From the current looks of our plants, that will likely happen very soon because they are loaded.
I only planted a few seeds of aerial radishes, just enough to try them. Once they started producing, I realized I would get far more than just a taste. They went from small orderly looking radish plants, to sprawling monsters in a matter of a couple of weeks. I love having blooming plants cascading over the edges of my beds, and I thought for a spell that these would do that. I quickly learned they have to be caged or trellised because they will very quickly crawl across the yard.
There are numerous varieties of rat-tailed or aerial radishes. I decided to grow the Burmese variety sold by Truelove Seeds, because I read that they were the sweetest, and figured they would be the most likely for toddlers to eat. A friend of mine is growing a variety called Singara available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The Singara variety has much longer pods and is described as being the most heat-tolerant varietiy of all plodded radishes. She is going to share some of those seeds with me and I can’t wait to try growing them soon.
I will definately be planting the Burmese and Singara varieties next spring. When I do, I will be sure to plant successions to extend the harvest of these distinctive treats further into the early summer months.
After tasting how delicious these are, I quickly started wishing I had a second crop of them in the ground this year. So, I tossed a few seeds in front of our bean trellises and am hoping for more of these sweet pods before extreme summer heat has a chance to kill the plants. Any of my readers in zone 7 or cooler probably still have plenty of time to get this fun crop growing this year.
- In colder climates, seeds can be started indoors. If starting seeds outdoors, plant in early spring after danger of hard freezes. Warm weather will cause the plants to bolt and start producing the edible flowers and pods.
- Stake, cage or trellis plants or they will ramble and sprawl over a large area.
- Harvest when seed pods are the diameter of a pencil with the shape of seeds starting to show through.
- Pick daily to keep plants productive. If the seed pods start to dry, the plant will slow down and quit producing.
- Plants are easy to grow and tolerant of poor soil conditions.
During one of the slowest times of the year for garden production these plants are producing snacks and side dishes. The last of the lettuce has been cut and the first of the green beans are still a few weeks away. So these pretty green pods couldn’t have better timing. It is been great to have tiny harvests of aerial radish pods coming into our kitchen.