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[Synonyms : Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. caudatus, Raphanus sativus, Raphanus sativus
var. caudatus, Raphanus sativus var. mougri]
RAT TAIL RADISH is an annual. Native to India and south-eastern Asia, it has leafy spikes
of veined, white or purplish flowers with pink pollination lines, followed by edible, to 30
in. long, slender, green or purple fruit pods (with a pronounced and extremely long, whip-
It is also known as Chinese radish, Edible podded radish, Geschwänzter Rettich (German), Java
radish, Kko tu ri yong mu (Korean), Lobak (Malay), Muli (Hindi), Phakkhithut (Thai),
Podding radish, Radis de Madras (French), Radis serpent (French), Radish, Rat’s tail
radish, Rat-tailed radish, Rattenschwanzrettich (German), Rattenschwanzwürze
(German), Ratto teeru radeisshu (Japanese), Schlangenrettich (German), Serpent radish,
Shi jia luo bo (Chinese), Slangen radijs (Dutch), Snake radish, and Zhao wa luo bo
Flowers are pollinated by bees and flies.
The pods become fibrous and tough as they mature.
is derived from Greek caudati-
meaning ‘tail, tailed or slender tailed’with reference,
in this instance, to the shape of the unripe seed pods.
While still small and slender, the tender half-ripe, cylindrical pods (which can have a pungent
radish-like taste) have been eaten as a vegetable in Malaysia, raw in salads or stir-fried,
steamed or boiled. In India (western regions especially) they have also been cooked in
ghee and added to curries. The pods can be eaten as a snack or pickled in vinegar too.
Also both the spicy-tasting young leaves and the edible flowers can be added to salads.
By 1815 rat tail radish is believed to have been introduced to England from Java (now part of
Indonesia). From at least the 1860s it is said to have been especially popular as a
vegetable in Europe, North America (some authorities have indicated that this podded
radish was popular during the American Civil War) and even Australia. In 1866 the
Royal Horticultural Society held an International Horticultural Exhibition and this plant,
then unnamed, is said to have been one of the highlights of the event. Authorities note
that the exhibit was the subject of many wild claims particularly about its important
future, the size of its pods and the speed of their growth, but considerable confusion and
disappointment seems to have ensued. Many people had assumed that the claims could all
be attributed to this species when in actual fact they were properties that were distributed
between several different varieties.
In the context of companion planting rat-tail radish if cultivated around tomatoes and
cucumbers is said to repel beetles. It is also believed to help in deterring carrot fly and
other pests. Farmers also value it as a green manure.
Medicinally, the roots can stimulate appetite and enhance digestion. Roots, seeds, the juice of
fresh leaves and the leaves themselves have all been used for treating various problems
such as bronchitis, asthma, constipation, diarrhoea, wind and intestinal inflammation.
Crushed rat tail radish poultices have been applied to smelly feet, burns and bruises.