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Rat-Tail radishes are small, slender, and elongated pods, averaging 15 to 30 centimeters in length, and have a cylindrical, spindly shape, tapering slightly at both ends. The light green pods are smooth, pencil-thin, firm, and taut, sometimes displaying a knobbed appearance. There are also some varieties with dark purple pods or a green and purple mottled surface. When consumed fresh, the pods are crisp and crunchy with a succulent, snap-like quality reminiscent of fresh chile peppers. It is recommended to consume younger pods as they will bear a more tender texture. Older pods develop a fibrous, chewy nature. Rat-Tail radishes contain a milder, peppery flavor compared to underground radish roots and have a delicate, vegetal pungency mixed with a subtle spiciness. In addition to the pods, some Rat-Tail radish varieties have edible pink or white flowers, and the young leaves can be consumed, emitting an herbaceous, green flavor.
Rat-Tail radishes are available in the summer through fall.
Rat-Tail radishes, botanically classified as Raphanus sativus var. Caudatus, are the edible seedpods, or siliques, of ancient radish plants belonging to the Brassicaceae family. The heirloom varieties do not produce bulbous underground roots like other radish cultivars, but instead, after flowering, hundreds of long, spindly seed pods form from the flowers growing on the stems of the plant. Rat-Tail radish plants can reach 60 to 121 centimeters in height in warm, sunny weather and are heavy producers, easy-to-grow, disease and pest resistant, and attractive ornamental additions to gardens. The crisp, peppery pods are typically harvested within 45 to 50 days of planting, and the pods are consumed fresh or lightly cooked. In markets worldwide, Rat-Tail radishes are known by several names, including Aerial radishes, Podded radishes, Spicy beans, and Serpentine beans, and there are many different varieties, varying in pod coloring and appearance.
Rat-Tail radishes are a good source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, folic acid to develop red blood cells, and potassium to balance fluid levels within the body. The pods are also a source of magnesium to control optimal nerve functioning, calcium to protect bones and teeth, copper to ensure a healthy metabolism, and other amounts of vitamin B6 and riboflavin.
Rat-Tail radishes have a peppery, pungent flavor well suited for raw or lightly cooked preparations, including steaming, frying, stir-frying, and boiling. The pods can be consumed straight, out of hand, or served on appetizer plates with dips. Rat-Tail radishes can also be tossed into salads, chopped into dressings and sauces, or sliced and used as a topping over tacos. In addition to fresh preparations, Rat-Tail radishes can be utilized in recipes calling for root radishes and will retain their crisp nature, but throughout the cooking process, some of the flavors will be lost. The pods can be sautéed with butter and garlic as a side dish, roasted with other vegetables, stir-fried as a crunchy main dish, or mixed into curries, soups, and stews. The pods can also be pickled with spices as a crunchy, tangy snack and condiment. Rat-Tail radishes pair well with chile peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, broccoli, meats such as poultry, beef, and pork, seafood including shrimp, crab, fish, and scallops, and spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. Whole, unwashed pods will keep for several weeks when stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Podded radishes are cultivated throughout Myanmar and are commonly used as a fresh vegetable among the Karen people. Myanmar is known for containing over 135 different ethnic groups, and the term Karen is a general descriptor used for 7 ethnic groups that reside in the forests of Southern Myanmar and along the border of Thailand. The Karen people cultivate the Burmese Rat-Tail radish, locally known as Ta Ba Par or Thaba Paw Wah. The elongated pods are favored for their fresh, peppery flavor and are traditionally consumed raw or boiled. In Karen cuisine, most ingredients are farmed, and the entire village customarily works together to harvest fresh vegetables for simple soups and salads. In Myanmar, Burmese Rat-Tail radishes are frequently dipped into chile paste and eaten out of hand, or they are incorporated into talapaw, a thick rice powder soup made with seasonal vegetables and meat. The pods are also mixed into tea leaf salads, and the flowers and young leaves are edible, tossed into salads.
Rat-Tail radishes are native to Southeast Asia and China, growing wild since ancient times. The podded plants were spread along trade routes into Central Asia and Europe, eventually cultivated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. In 1699, podded radishes were mentioned by author and gardener John Evelyn in his book, Acetaria, and the radishes were believed to have been extensively cultivated in Europe sometime during the 18th century. Rat-Tail radishes were also introduced to Japan from Thailand in 1867, grew in English gardens in 1815, and were planted in New World gardens. Over time, especially in the 1950s in the United States, Rat-tail radishes fell out of favor and disappeared from commercial markets. Today the heirloom plants remain a specialty novel variety only planted in home gardens. The edible pods are still cultivated throughout China and Southeast Asia and are also grown on a small scale in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Recipes that include Rat-Tail Radish. One is easiest, three is harder.