Every season, I let a few of my radish plants flower and seed. Some I leave to collect seed for next season, and some I simply forget about in the shadow of other plants.
So it’s always a good surprise when I find a tangled mess of vines like this in the garden and they end up being over-ripened radish plants — plants that had grown over 4 feet tall, full of little white blossoms and slender green pods.
At this stage, most people consider the plants done for the season. The radishes themselves have grown too woody or fibrous to eat, and the leaves have withered or become damaged by aphids and other pests.
But gardeners in the know, know that this isn’t the end of the plants. Far from it.
Those pointy green seed pods are actually a last hurrah from the radish plant, a harvest well worth the wait because the pods are so uniquely delicious.
You read that right: you can eat radish seed pods.
What do radish seeds look like?
Radish seeds form inside thin, elongated pods on tall, upright stems that reach 4 to 5 feet. A single flower stalk can produce several dozen seed pods in various stages of maturity, so it doesn’t take very many radish plants to yield a sizable harvest of pods.
Each radish pod is 1 to 2 inches in length with a narrow cylindrical shape that tapers to a point.
If you leave the pods to ripen on the stems (a few weeks after they appear), they’ll dry up, turn yellow or brown, and split open to reveal tiny black or brown seeds.
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What types of radish plants produce edible seed pods?
All radish plants form edible seed pods (even wild radishes, if you come across them on a hike), and there is even an heirloom variety called Rat’s Tail radish grown specifically for its large, tender seed pods.
But I’ve let all types of radishes — from the hefty watermelon radishes and Japanese daikons of winter to the popular and petite French Breakfast and Easter Egg Blend varieties of spring — flower at the end of the season, and they produced delicious pods for weeks.
How long does it take for radishes to seed?
Radishes sown from spring to summer will flower from mid-summer to fall. In mild winter climates, radishes can be sown in fall for an early spring harvest — after which the plants will bolt and produce seed pods in late spring.
The crisp green pods appear a few weeks after the radishes are past their picking prime, so if you sowed more radishes than you can eat, you’re assured of a bonus crop at the end of the season.
By collecting and eating the seed pods, you can stretch the harvest period for radishes much longer than usual. Think of it as no-waste gardening!
How do you harvest radish seed pods?
Gather the pods when they’re still fresh and green, but after the seeds inside start developing. The radish pods will bulge a bit (kind of like pea pods) and grow fleshier, which makes for better eating.
You can hand-pick pods in the garden by pulling them off the stems, or cut off the entire stalk to harvest the pods in your kitchen.
Most stalks will have radish pods in all stages of maturity, and personally, I only go for ones that are well-formed, as they pack in more flavor.
What do radish seed pods taste like?
Radish pods taste just like the radishes they spawn from, but more concentrated in flavor. They’re spicy and crunchy and are best eaten raw, either straight off the stem or pickled in a jar.
Seed pods from winter radishes tend to be milder in flavor than seed pods from spring and summer radishes, but their texture is the same — crisp and not stringy at all.
Sometimes I snip off the tip if it’s particularly long and pointy, but the entire pod is edible.
What do you do with radish seed pods?
Radish pods can be used anywhere you’d normally use radishes: leafy salads, taco toppings, pitas and wraps.
But my favorite way to eat them is to pickle them first. They taste amazing on their own, and even more amazing as a side dish to a bed of rice and some grilled meats.
You can chop up a handful of pickled radish pods to use like capers in an omelet or noodle bowl, or skewer them on a toothpick to garnish a bloody mary and add a peppery bite.
Try this: Quick Pickled Sweet ‘n Spicy Radishes
Make a few jars of radish seed pickles to have on hand as last-minute gifts and potluck contributions — nobody ever knows what they are, and I love explaining how the entire radish plant (from the roots to the greens to the seeds) is edible!
This recipe is a favorite from The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook. Have you checked out my latest book? I have more recipes for radishes, radish leaves, and the tops and tails of many ordinary vegetables that become extraordinary once you realize what you can actually use from them.
Pickled Radish Seed Pods
Makes 3 cups
1 cup water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 heaping cups radish seed pods
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, rice vinegar, wine vinegar, sugar, and salt and stir until the grains are dissolved. Let the brine cool to room temperature.
Pack the radish pods into jars and pour the brine over them, making sure the pods are fully submerged.
Pickle at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for at least 4 hours before serving. For best flavor, pickle overnight in the fridge.
When you’re done with the pickles: What to Do With Leftover Pickle Brine
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on April 22, 2013.