On most visits to my grandparents’ house, I can usually be found in the kitchen, hovering around my grandmother and her two sisters (AKA “The Aunties”, AKA my extra grandmas) as they prepare that day’s meal. And while many of the kitchen ingredients come directly from the backyard garden that my grandfather usually tends, I rarely venture out there on account of things like bugs and dirt. I mean, I can’t be bothered to have my nice kicks all muddied up now can I?
Truthfully though, my grandfather hasn’t been himself for the past few months, so he and his green thumbs have been inside the house and away from his vegetables in the backyard. But despite my grandfather’s absence from the garden, I still found my grandmother prepping a particularly interesting looking veggie on my last visit to their home.
On the kitchen counter were a bowlful of strange green pods resembling some sort of love child sprung from the loins of a green bean and a green thai chile. My grandmother told me that they were the pods that eventually grow from a radish root if left to its own devices.
Initially, I was quite dubious of this “radish pod” talk. Stuff grows out of a radish root? That’s crazy I thought. Maybe my grandfather had been well enough to go outside and grow these magic beans. Or maybe my grandmother or her sisters had been tending the garden. So I actually went outside to the garden to have a look for myself.
On any given day, depending on the season, my grandfather’s garden is normally lush with anything from eggplants, to tomatoes, to chili peppers, and any variety of Filipino greens. But other than an expanse of tangled green tendrils, I found not much else in the garden. And within this tangled mess hung hundreds of green pods amidst a smattering of white blossoms.
Radish pods, not chile peppers.
I picked one of the green pods off of the vine and gave it a taste. It was crunchy and fresh, with a spicy peppery bite and a slight bitter aftertaste. It tasted exactly like a radish. Amazing. Something from something that was to be nothing.
Of course, I had to take some of these magic beans home with me. And after some internet sleuthing, I found that radish pods also go by the name of “Rat-tailed Radishes” due to the tapering of the bean to a thin tail-like end. Rat-tailed Radish is a pretty awesome and/or disgusting name depending on how you look at things. I’m in the “awesome” camp.
A bowl of Rat-Tails
The rat-tails (awesome) were made into a simple Labanos (or Rabanos in Ilocano) and Kamatis salad at my grandparents’ house. The rat-tails were blanched and then tossed with fresh tomatoes, fish sauce, and salt. That’s it. A simple and fresh Pinoy salad.
After blanching though, the radish pods do lose a bit of their bite, and I definitely preferred the radish pods fresh rather than cooked. So I recreated the salad in my own kitchen with raw radish pods for a crunchier, spicier, version of the salad.
Fresh and Clean
The recipe below isn’t much of a recipe at all; it’s really just a bunch of fresh ingredients tossed in a bowl. With that said, if you’re lucky enough to come across some fresh radish pods, this simple Filipino salad is a perfect starting point for enjoying rat-tails. The crunchy, bitter, and peppery rat-tails go wonderfully well with tangy-sweet tomatoes and umami-heavy fish sauce.
Rat-Tail (Radish Pod) and Tomato Salad
1 pound radish pods, washed
2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
3-4 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste
Sea salt, to taste
In a large bowl, combine and toss the radish pods, tomatoes, and fish sauce. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.