The watermelon radish is one of my most favorite vegetables and TOTALLY deserves to be the Star Ingredient of the Week. Especially since we’re coming to the end of its season…which is totally bumming me out but we’ll get to that shortly! So what exactly is a watermelon radish? Don’t let the name fool you…it tastes nothing like a watermelon but with a greenish-creamy color on the outside and deep red on the inside it’s definitely easy to see how it got its name! These delicious radishes have a crisp texture and a mild flavor that is slightly sweet yet peppery. Unlike other radishes, their flavor becomes mellower the longer they mature. This is where I would say, “Just like me!”
How Did This Veggie Find Its Way To Our Marketplace?
As an heirloom variety of daikon radishes (which EVERYONE seems to know about), the watermelon radish originated in China where it’s called Xin Li Mei or shinrimei…which loosely translates to “in one’s heart it is beautiful.” The bright pink heart makes it very Instagrammable so it’s becoming trendy with cooks everywhere. Afterall, we eat with our eyes.
Did We Mention The Health Benefits?
Watermelon radish leaves are high in vitamins (if you have them, definitely use the greens in salads or for cooking). The flesh is a good source of calcium! Radishes also contain trace amounts of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, copper, manganese, and sodium. Radishes are also proven to lower blood pressure, fight cancer, and reduce stress…which we can ALL use a little help with now! Health experts say that watermelon radishes may even help prevent gastric ulcers and intestinal inflammation.
Storage & Prep Tips To Keep This Star Fabulous
As with many root vegetables, watermelon radishes should be stored in the fridge or a cool place but unlike other radishes, they store well for at least a month. Also, you don’t have to use the entire radish at once…partially used watermelon radishes will keep for several days in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Wash them well before using, gently scrubbing to remove any dirt. And here’s where it gets fun… watermelon radishes do not have to be peeled before using. That said, you’ll find die-hard fans who will keep the skin on and others who prefer to take the skin off. If you do decide to peel them, make sure you put the skins in your stock stash in the freezer…they will give a little peppery nuance to your spring veggie stock. Then slice, dice or julienne away!
So Many Ways To Enjoy Watermelon Radishes
Watermelon radishes can be eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. They can be braised or roasted like a turnip…or even mashed like a rutabaga! I know…soooo versatile. Here are a few suggestions to try out:
- Cut the radish in half, and then into semi-circles, or triangles, like a slice of actual watermelon. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy! Again…the skin is edible, but I usually eat it just like a watermelon, leaving the “rind” which is a bit more spicy. hint: black sea salt will look like watermelon seeds…a totally fun party trick to make a veggie tray more exciting!
- If you’re a dipper, cut raw watermelon radish into sticks and eat with lemon yogurt sauce, sour-cream herb dip, or creamy salad dressing.
- Top salads with slices of watermelon radish for a bold finish. They will totally give you the crunch you need!
- Dice watermelon radish and sauté in coconut oil over medium heat until a fork easily pierces the cubes. For more color and flavor, add diced carrots and ginger, plus a few pinches of sea salt.
- Brighten up traditional roasted roots by adding cubes of watermelon radish. Pre-heat oven to 400ºF, toss mixed root vegetables in olive oil, salt, and herbs (I love rosemary, or a mix of thyme and sage; Chef Diana is a big fan of Au Za’atar seasoning). Cook on a sheet or roasting pan for about 40 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the roots and the skins have slightly browned. Check the roots and stir to prevent sticking half-way through cooking. Roasting will transform the watermelon color into a deep pink.
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow!
Alas, watermelon radishes love cooler temps and while they can be grown year-round, peak season is November thru April. This means it’s wrapping up soon but Chef Diana has crafted a WONDERFULLY tasty recipe, a Radish Galette (Rustic Tart) (link), as a fun way to celebrate the end of the season. So while I’ll be bummed to say good-bye to my favorite veggie, there’s a bunch of other ones coming into season that will keep me occupied until late Fall when it’ll return once more!