Rat Tail Radish (Raphanus sativus) is an uncommon variety which is grown for its edible seed pods. Here’s how to grow, care, harvest and use the annual plant.
Rat Tail Radish (Raphanus sativus), also called serpent radish or tail-pod radish is an heirloom plant in the Brassicaceae family that originates from Southeast Asia. Unlike regular radish which is grown for its roots, this hardy annual variety is grown for its seed pods.
How to Grow Rat Tail Radish
Rat Tail Radish is best sown direct and can be grown in spring, summer and autumn. Choose a sunny location, preferably in full sun and plant the seeds 1 cm deep and space them 2 to 4 cm apart and cover with a thin layer of soil. I like to use sifted seed raising mix on top.
Normally, it takes 6 to 8 weeks to reach maturity but in my experience, if you sow the seeds during the cooler months, it can take a significant time to germinate let alone grow to a significant size.
The plant grows in a bush-like manner up to 1 metre high and even taller under some conditions and benefits from staking. I planted mine in a long window box planters either side of the raised garden beds. As can be seen in the photo above, they grew to almost 1.5m tall and needed to be secured against the arch.
As it reaches maturity, masses of white-pink flowers develop which attract pollinators en masse. The flowers then turn into pale green elongated pods which can be harvested or left on the plant to dry for seed saving.
Rat Tail Radish Plant Care
Plant maintenance is relatively easy. Keep it well watered and when planted in compost rich soil, there’s very little need to apply regular liquid fertiliser.
Like most brassicas, it attracts the cabbage moth so keep an eye out for caterpillars, remove them by hand and feed them to your chickens, if you have them. I find removing the caterpillars and squishing them attracts ants which gobble them up. Towards the end of the plant’s life, and at times when the pods are in formation, aphids take up residence. Aphids can be hosed off but keep an eye on their ultimate return. Another way to remove them is to use an old brush and bucket and simply brush the aphids off the pods. This method avoids the use of white oil which tends to stick to the edible pods.
Once the pods have reached around 7cm in length and have filled with seeds, harvest them by using secateurs. Avoid pulling on the pods to avoid damage to the plant.
EAT IT: Culinary Uses of Broad Beans
Rat tail radish pods have a mild peppery flavour and a crunchy texture. They go well in salads, stir fries and curries. They can also be pickled, lacto-fermented or simply enjoyed raw in a variety of salads. They can be used like green beans, lightly steamed, boiled or tossed in olive oil, your favourite herbs and spices and oven roasted as a snack.
If you’re planning on saving seeds, leave the pods on the plant until they turn brown and dry. They can then be shelled and stored in a cool, dry place until ready for planting.
Rat Tail Radish is a no fuss addition to the edible garden. Once it is established, it is relatively easy grow and when it starts to flower, the garden will soon be buzzing with pollinators.
Want to Know More?
You’ll find more information on how to grow radish, which varieties to try, how to pair it with food and spirits, and how to use radish in cocktails including a full recipe in my 260+ page digital book GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN available now.