With a large country garden, I have plenty of room to experiment with new and unusual vegetables. One of the most surprising crops I've tried recently is a podding radish, which you grow not for its roots but for its edible pods borne above the ground. Native to Southeast Asia are two types of podding radishes: 'Madras,' with short, mild-flavored pods; and 'Rat's Tail' (shown at left), with 12-inch-long spicy pods. The green or purple pods cover 4- to 5-foot-tall stems. Even my friends who don't relish radishes like the crispy texture of these pods and prefer their slightly milder bite. You can chop the pods, leave them whole to use fresh in salads, or toss them into stir-fry dishes.
Sow seeds in a sunny spot anytime from three weeks before the last spring frost through mid-August west of the Cascades (June east of the Cascades). Expect to harvest the first pods 50 days after sowing.
Seeds of podding radishes are available from Bountiful Gardens (707/459-6410 or www.bountifulgardens.org) and Pinetree Garden Seeds (207/926-3400).