Radish Pods and Other Multi-Tasking Vegetables

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Last week I tasted a vegetable I didn't know existed: radish pods. They looked a little like short pea pods or green beans but were more delicate and crunchier, and had the pungent bite of a radish, though milder. In fact, they are the seed pods of a radish plant that has been allowed to flower and go to seed. Some varieties, such as the rattail radish (clearly not named with marketability in mind), are grown specifically for the pods, though any radish variety will produce them.

My coworker, whose husband grew the radish pods, told me they are eaten raw as a snack with beer in Germany. Further research turned up a couple of other recipes: in India, the pods are called moongre and added to stir-fries, such as this Moongre ki Subzi recipe with potatoes and spices. They can also be pickled or thrown in a salad.

I like radishes—the root of the plant—but I might even prefer their less-famous seed pods. It's kind of like the schoolgirl crush I had on movie star Matt Dillon, only to discover years later that his brother Kevin is funnier. Or maybe it's like discovering that the class clown writes serious poetry—and it's good!

I'm pretty green at gardening—by which I mean "new," not that I have a knack for it, to which my sad potted basil will attest. But I like the idea of planting something that will be edible beyond its usual harvest time, or that has more than one edible part—multi-taskers.

As it turns out, quite a few plants have edible parts that aren't as well-known as the food they are grown for. For instance, many vegetables have edible leaves—even carrots, as Amanda discovered—and some have edible flowers. Squash blossoms are delicious stuffed, battered and fried. Chive blossoms are pretty and add a pungent, onion-like flavor to a salad or vegetable dish. Most herb blossoms, including basil, thyme and oregano, are also edible and taste similar to the rest of the plant. Garlic scapes, the early green shoot of a garlic bulb, have become a farmers' market favorite—I tried them last year, and they are delicious.

A chart on the Texas A&M site lists some other "secondary edible parts" of common vegetables, although, as the authors point out, not all of these parts are necessarily as tasty. Unfurled corn tassels are listed as edible, for instance, but I'm not sure how appetizing they sound.

The list is far from complete, I'm sure. Have you eaten any unexpectedly tasty parts of vegetables or fruits?

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