As a Gen X’er, I feel like I’ve lived enough years to at least have basic knowledge of items and ingredients you would find in a kitchen. But then I come across something like a watermelon radish and realize that I actually know very little about the world. What in the heck is a watermelon radish, and how does it taste? Allow me to share what I’ve learned.
A Watermelon Radish Has Many Names
Watermelon radishes originated in China and are an heirloom variety of daikon radishes. They are a root vegetable and a member of the Brassica family, which also includes arugula, broccoli, turnips, and cabbage.
In China, watermelon radishes are called Xin Li Mei, which loosely translates to “in one’s heart it is beautiful.” In some parts of the world, watermelon radishes are known as Rooseheart, red daikon, or red meat radishes.
Of course, watermelon radishes don’t taste like watermelon. They get their name from their appearance because their flesh is green around the exterior with a deep pink to bright red center.
Watermelon radishes can be much larger than a regular radish, but they do vary in size. Sometimes, they are as small as a golf ball. But they can be as large as a softball.
How Does A Watermelon Radish Taste?
A watermelon radish has a firm and crisp texture with a clean, mild taste that’s a little peppery and a little sweet. The flavor and texture is somewhere between daikon radish and jícama. However, it does mellow the longer the watermelon radish matures.
Watermelon radishes are quite delicious and versatile, as you can prepare them in a number of different ways. You can eat them raw, pickled, or cooked. Like a turnip, they can be braised or roasted. They can also be mashed like rutabaga. However, watermelon radishes do lose their beautiful, bright hue when you cook them.
Just like regular radishes, peeling watermelon radishes isn’t a must before eating them. However, you do need to wash them first and scrub them well to get rid of the dirt.
Where to Buy Watermelon Radishes
Believe it or not, watermelon radishes are currently in season because they thrive in cold soil. They are widely available from late fall all the way through to spring. You should be able to find them in the produce section of your local grocery store or at a farmer’s market.
When buying watermelon radishes, be sure to choose some that feel heavy for their size. You want them to be firm and without blemishes. For storage, simply put them in a plastic bag and place them in the crisper drawer of your fridge. They should easily last a few weeks.
The Best Ways to Use a Watermelon Radish
When it comes to the beautiful watermelon radish, it is best used raw. Their vivid interior can add color and crunch to a number of different dishes, like salads, veggie platters, and vegan rice bowls.
If you eat them raw, simply cut the radish in half, then into semi-circles or triangles like a slice of watermelon. Then, simply sprinkle them with salt and enjoy their sweet and spicy taste. A fun idea is to use black sea salt because it looks like watermelon seeds.
Watermelon radishes are delicious on their own, but they are also great when you cut them into sticks and dip them into a creamy salad dressing or a sour cream herb dip. But, they really do shine on the top of salads.
You can use a watermelon radish just like you would other greens, like spinach, chard, and arugula. You don’t need any specific recipes. Instead, just wash them well and add them to whatever dish you’d like.
Raw watermelon radishes are a fantastic addition to salads because they are compatible with other types of radishes. They also go well with cucumbers, onions, and herbs. And they make a good pairing with citrus in mixed salads with a vinaigrette.
A Buddha salad bowl—where the ingredients are arranged instead of mixed—is a great place for watermelon radishes. The same goes for main dish Buddha bowls, as the vivid color of the watermelon radish complements orange squash and purple potatoes.
Vegan poke bowls and rice bowls can also benefit from the color and texture of watermelon radishes. Use them as an embellishment to add visual interest, as well as flavor.
Cooking with Watermelon Radishes
If you want to try cooking with watermelon radishes, sautéing and roasting are the best options. When you sauté watermelon radishes, dice them up and sauté in coconut oil over medium heat until you can easily pierce them with a fork. For more flavor and color, add diced carrots and ginger with pinches of sea salt.
For roasting, heat your oven to 400 degrees and toss your mixed root vegetables in some olive oil, salt, and herbs like thyme, sage, and rosemary. Cook them on a roasting pan or sheet for about 40 minutes. To prevent sticking, check them and stir halfway through cooking.
For more roasting ideas, try these recipes for Roasted Watermelon Radishes and Roasted Watermelon Radishes with Herbed Tahini Sauce.
How to Pickle Watermelon Radishes
Pickled watermelon radishes are sweet and slightly sour, with a hint of spicy. They are really good and don’t take a ton of time to make. The recipe for three-ingredient quick-pickled watermelon radish calls for a watermelon radish, a quarter-cup of rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar), and two tablespoons of sugar (or maple syrup).
Simply combine the vinegar and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Add in the radish and toss, then put the bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes. Then, add a pinch of salt and toss again before serving as an appetizer or adding to a salad. You can store this pickled radish in an airtight container for up to a week.
Now that I have discovered watermelon radishes, I have found myself adding them to every salad I make. This unique ingredient is as delicious as it is beautiful—almost too pretty to eat.