I Smell a Radish. Did I Say Radish? I Meant Rat.

I live in an old, charming Boston neighborhood filled with flowerboxes, brick sidewalks and gas burning lanterns. Beacon Hill is rich with cultural history, once a setting for John Hancock’s country estate and later a home for wealthy Boston Brahmins in the 1800s; Louisa May Alcott even lived here. Apparently, it’s also nice lodging for rats. I have the hole burrowed under my fence to prove it.

Now, I wish I could say I was horrified when I found out I had a rat gallivanting around at night. Truth be told, as long as he stayed outside and didn’t bother me, I was content to go on pretending he didn’t exist. But then he had to go ahead and eat my radish greens.

I say “he” because I assumed, naively, that this was only one rat. I imagined him to be like Splinter, from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; a sage rat, perhaps even skilled in martial arts, with a propensity for radishes. So you can imagine my horror when I set out nine bromethalin baits in my tiny outdoor patio space and eight were gone the next day. Completely gone. I am fabulous with denial. One rat, ha!

I thought long and hard about whether I should even mention any of this. Using a neurotoxin-based rat poison is not something I am proud of. It makes me feel like I am one small step away from hiding used batteries in birds’ nests and throwing gasoline-filled water balloons at small children. I tried to go the natural route, I really did. Word on the street is you can spray fox urine to deter rats, but such a product was nowhere to be found at my local hardware shop. (Also, I am pretty sure Beacon Hill city rats have evolved past being afraid of foxes.) The rats here also seem to have become immune to the rat poison, warfarin—an anticoagulant known as coumadin when given to humans—as it was, also, nowhere to be found in Beacon Hill.

Now, I first thought it odd the bromethalin baits touted that they were "ideal" for fighting “warfarin-resistant” rats. How could a creature become immune to something that—under normal circumstances—should cause it to bleed to death? After ruminating the issue, it made total sense why the rats were after my greens. Greens are very rich in vitamin K, which aids in the clotting of blood; hence, eating greens out of my garden was a natural way to combat the warfarin. Dang you rats.

I realize I’ve spent a good few paragraphs talking about rats, which I am pretty sure is a no-no when writing about food. But this is a blog about life, not just food. And, sometimes, in real life you have rats. Hopefully, you can learn from my lax rat-titude (couldn’t resist) and prevent any major destruction in your garden. I promptly started over and grew a new batch of radishes in an old wine crate, which finally leads me to the food part of this post.

This past weekend I needed to thin some radish, arugula and mustard green seedlings I had growing. This is another act that makes me feel heartless. Plucking healthy plants from the earth is not something I relish in, but, alas, it is necessary for the development of healthy plants. Still, I hate the idea of wasting anything edible, so I figured I’d just eat the thinnings. It turns out thinnings have a fancy cousin in the culinary world: microgreens. [Mi.cro.green: noun, shoot of a standard salad plant (such as mustard or arugula).] National Public Radio even reported on “microgreens” as a food trend in 2008. (Where have I been?) Well, the poor man’s microgreen is delicious. And makes an amazing pesto. Ah, life is all about turning overgrown radish greens into pesto, no?

The kicker: I put this pesto on some homemade ravioli I had in the freezer and I had dinner in fewer than 15 minutes (hence, the picture).

Spring Green Pesto

2 cups microgreens (or other greens such as arugula, pea shoots, or mixed herbs)

¼ cup parmigiano-reggiano

¼ -1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted (walnuts would also work really well)

2-4 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. You may have to adjust the quantities slightly to get the consistency you want. This pesto freezes beautifully for future use.

Makes about ¾ cup. (This was based on the amount of “microgreens” I had available, you could certainly increase the proportions.)


Be sure to use good quality ingredients, as there are only a few ingredients in the recipe. You may not be able to pluck anything edible straight from your backyard, but if you have a farmers’ market nearby, I highly recommend getting some fresh, local spring greens. You might even get lucky and find some microgreens. Pea shoots and arugula would also be wonderful substitutes, as would most other green herbs, such as parsley or mint. As luck would have it, the farmers’ markets in Boston are just opening for the season this week and next.

If you don’t have a market nearby, you may be able to find these items at a local grocery store. Or you could even try growing some greens yourself. If you have a sunny windowsill or fire escape most herbs and salad greens will happily grow, making fresh pesto only a few snips away.

I still like to keep a few potted herbs on my windowsill; most of them have journeyed with me from Allston to Fenway, and most recently to Beacon Hill. It’s been four years and they haven’t forsaken me yet. Fresh pesto and resiliency: I take comfort in that.


  1. you're so stinking cute! i love it! - meaghan o

  2. Stay tuned: lots more to come Meaghan! Thanks for following. :)

  3. The joys of urban living are infinite. We have a small community garden on our little urban campus. Our location puts us very close to downtown Denver but still in a little populated mostly industrial area, right on the river, where we still have foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Long story short- the raccoons made a trip through 2 days ago- not pretty! Good luck with the new batch of radishes- roast them when they are ready!

  4. Oh wow: you have lots to contend with other than the usual "slugs" and such. Good luck. May the radishes be delicious!