Jun 16, 2015


I found some watermelon radishes at our farmer's market today. My friend Stefani Bush grows them and occasionally sells them their. She also shreds them and makes pickles. I first saw these beautiful radishes on the Iron Chef America television show many years ago when they were used as a garnish. The next day I sent for seeds from the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds, Kitazawa Seed Company, in Oakland, California. I found that watermelon radishes are very easy to grow. 

Watermelon Radish seeds from 
Kitazawa Seed Company
Watermelon radishes are actually an heirloom variety of daikon radishes and originated in China, where they are called "xin li mei" (心里美, pronounced "sheen lee may")which means "beautiful inside".  They're a root vegetable and member of the Brassica family, which also includes arugula, broccoli, and cabbage.

The watermelon radish doesn't actually taste like watermelon. Instead, the flesh, which is pale green around the exterior with a deep pink to bright red center, bears quite a resemblance to its namesake.

Watermelon radishes are larger than regular radishes and can range from the size of a golfball to that of a softball. They're firm and crisp with a mild taste that's a blend of slightly peppery and slightly sweet.

These pretty radishes aren't all show, they're also really delicious and versatile! Watermelon radishes can be eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. They can be braised or roasted like a turnip, or mashed like a rutabaga, though I prefer them raw since they lose their bright hue when cooked.

Similar to regular radishes, this variety does not have to be peeled before eating. Try slicing them into half-moons, making a light and light-colored dressing, and then adding black sesame seeds for "watermelon seeds", or try one of these recipes:

Watermelon Radish Butter
1/2 pound round red radishes, trimmed, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, completely softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
About 24 thinly sliced rye toast points, toasted slices of French bread, water crackers, 2-inch celery sticks, endive leaves, or romaine heart halves to serve the Watermelon Radish Butter on.

Put the radishes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the radish is chopped into very fine dice, four or five 3-second pulses.

Transfer the contents to a length of cheesecloth or a double thickness of paper towels and wring out the excess liquid.

Transfer to a medium bowl and add 4 tablespoons of the butter.

With a rubber spatula, cream the radish and butter together, adding more butter 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a smooth, pliable mass.

Transfer the mixture to a 2-cup ramekin or bowl, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top, and serve immediately. (The butter will keep, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Remove it from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to let it soften. Sprinkle the salt and freshly ground pepper over the radish butter before serving.) Makes 6 servings.

Chinese Watermelon Radish Salad
2 cups (about 8 ounces) snow peas, trimmed and rinsed
1 tablespoon water
2 scallions (green and white portions), thinly sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and cut into julienne slices (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the snow peas in a microwave-safe bowl with the water. Cover tightly and microwave for 1 minute. Drain and let cool. Cut the snow peas on the diagonal into 1/2-inch diamonds shapes, discarding the end pieces.

In a medium serving bowl, combine the snow peas, scallions, and watermelon radishes. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, and oil until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the salad and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Watermelon Radishes
1 pound Watermelon Radishes, trimmed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice
butter, room temperature
chopped fresh herbs for garnish, like thyme
sesame seeds for garnish

Peel and cut radishes into quarters. Toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Roast at 425°F until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Toss with fresh lemon juice, room-temperature butter, and chopped fresh herbs; season with salt and sesame seeds. Serve immediately as a side dish. Makes 2 servings.

Pickled Watermelon Radishes
1 to 2 Watermelon Radishes
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, lightly crushed

Wash your Watermelon Radishes well, making sure to remove any dirt. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly slice your watermelon radishes into discs, then place in a clean canning jar. 

In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil, and simmer for one minute or until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and add the garlic and peppercorns. Pour the hot liquid including the garlic and peppercorns over the radishes.
Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Makes 1 cup.

Note: Watermelon Radishes, like pickled daikon radishes, begin to take on an off-putting smell, and after a day, the color of the radishes take on a uniform pale pink color. It's best to eat them soon after making them to avoid this, however they will keep for month refrigerated.

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