WARNING: The following post contains NO scenes of parasitic murder, feline or insect defecation defecation and no eight-legged beasties or mucus of any kind. May contain mild swearing.

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I grew lots of nice things last year and didn’t write about most of them. But as they were nice I will be growing them again this year and so will start to tell you about them now. First in line, the rat-tailed radish.


the old peppery pink earth-dweller

Now there’s not much wrong with the ordinary radish. I like its peppery kick and I love the fact that seed can turn to lunch in as little as three weeks. I love the seeds for being happy to do their thing in the gaps in which few other plants would cooperate, and I like forgetting where I’ve put them then finding them again when a flash of fluorescent pink has broken the surface. And despite the slugs’ enthusiasm for almost everything I prepare for them (so rewarding to feed grateful mouths…) radish escape relatively unscathed.

But there is a problem with the old peppery-pink earth dweller. Each radish I munch requires  at least one seed to have been put into the ground a few weeks before.  A reliable supply requires regular sowing, and I am not to be trusted.

That got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if radish grew on trees?

Or even on a small plant, say 1m high? Then one little seed would gives lots and lots of radish mouthfuls, and I wouldn’t mind at all if it took a little longer to grow.

Also, if we are to redesign the radish, please could they could look like the clawing fingers of an extra-terrestrial?

Rat-tailed radish









Yep that’s pretty good.

So how does it do on taste?

Good.  Not the same, but good. The flavour is primarily the hot-kick element one gets with the ground-radish (as we shall now call it), washed down with some green-tasting fresh air.

And don’t forget: because the poor blighter is so desperate to get some of its little seeds out into the world, the more you eat, the more it will try to grow some more.  Ha ha!

Also there’s the unexpected bonus of eternal youth. You just need to eat it right.

Aged seven, I spent hours and hours alone in the garden in various make-believe worlds. When one is engaged in an epic struggle battling witches (or pirates, or cave monsters, or bone-creatures or crazed goats) it often happens that one can only survive by living off the fat of the land. Nibbling dandelion leaves was not enjoyable, but good for reinforcing feelings of surviving against the odds. Sucking the nectar out of Deadnettle flowers was altogether sweeter (the pixies taught me that trick). Many adventures involved raiding Dad’s vegetable beds then retreating up a tree with muddy radish and spring onions on a lettuce plate; tomato harvests were sometimes lower than expected after small vermin invaded the greenhouse. Once, a thieving rat and her friend carried out a daring raid on a neighbouring garden after days of longing for raspberries which did not belong to them. This thieving rat still hangs her head in shame at the memory, but it can’t be denied that there is a special pleasure in eating something straight from the ground or the branch.

And what fun I could have had with rat-tailed radish! The gnarled and knobbly fingers are ideal for serving as a delicacy at a witches’ feast. They are also perfect for biting straight off the branch – “look! no hands!” –  which is very handy if one is spending the afternoon pretending to be a horse or other grazing animal. I was reflecting on this last August, when I realised I was sat on the ground in front of the plant,  snapping at it like a crocodile. Seven did not seem so far away.

Gnarled tree

The pixies live somewhere round here