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Posts Tagged ‘Heirloom vegetable crops’

I manage a local community garden, and this season I tried out an heirloom crop that I have never grown before—or heard of for that matter: Dragon tail radishes. As their name suggests, they are related to true radishes, along with turnips, garden cress, and other popular crops. Unlike radishes and turnips, though, dragon tails are grown for their tasty purple seed pods.

Thus far, I have used them to add a zesty radishlike tang to salads and stir fries.  They also can be pickled.

Dragon-tail-radishes-closeup-crop

ABOVE: Pod production on our plants got ahead of us this week, because I’ve been away visiting gardens with the Annapolis Horticultural Society. Nevertheless, I picked several pounds to deliver to St. Martin’s Ministries food pantry tomorrow. There will be more pods ready to pick on the plants in a day or so.

Dragon-Tail-radishes-closeup

Above: The pods are best picked when they are slender—less than the width of a pencil, although if you like your salad or stir fry ingredients on the spicy side, slightly thicker is fine. Length can vary from about 3 inches to more than 12 inches.

The crisp, tender pods have a radish-like taste. The best pods are much thinner than green beans. As they become thicker and longer, they become spicier.  The largest ones are quite hot. In my kitchen, I use the really slender pods fresh in salads. Slender pods also are fine in stir fries. The thicker, spicier ones taste great in combinations that feature garlic, hot sauce, and other similar ingredients.

In the Garden

Dragon tail radishes couldn’t be easier to grow. Give them a spot in full sun, average soil, and direct sow seeds right in the garden. Water regularly until seedlings are up. Plants spread 1 to 2 feet at maturity, so thin seedlings accordingly. I have found that plants grown in a singe row, rather than a block, are easier to harvest.  Mature plants are about 3 feet tall. You can prune out older branches to keep the plants blooming through the summer months.

The plants are really stunning, and this heirloom crop would be right at home in a flower garden. I wish I had remembered to take pictures of the plants at the peak of bloom, when seedpods were just beginning to appear!  Not only do the plants  produce clouds of white and pinkish flowers that wave in the breeze, the purple pods and stems also are attractive. Furthermore, the flowers attract loads of butterflies. Yes, our plants primarily attracted  clouds of cabbage white butterflies, but still they are really pretty!

Sources

I would like to thank Burpee Seeds for sending me seed of dragon tail radishes to try in the garden.  Several other seed houses, including Baker Creek offer a similar crop called rat-tail radishes, which produce green seedpods.

Dragon tail radishes

Above. Our plants growing at Victory Farm Community Garden, just before today’s harvest. Tomorrow, they are getting pruned! If you are interested in volunteering in our garden, send me an e-mail!

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