Like Cinderella before her transformation, the exterior of a watermelon radish is modest at best and drab at worst. But open it, and all is magic: the interior of this root vegetable practically sparkles with hot pink and vibrant orange, turning heads as it suddenly appears as the belle of the ball.
Here's everything you need to know about watermelon radishes; they are in season right now, and they're the colorful answer to everything that ails your plate in the late dregs of wintertime.
Why Is It Called a Watermelon Radish?
Watermelon radishes are an heirloom variety of daikon radishes and originated in China, where they are called shinrimei. 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 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.
How to Buy and Store Watermelon Radishes
Watermelon radishes are widely available from late fall through spring. These beautiful vegetables thrive in cold soil.
When buying them, choose radishes that feel heavy for their size. They should be firm and without blemishes.
Store them in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a few weeks.
How to Use Watermelon Radishes
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. Just make sure to wash them very well, and scrub away any dirt.
Have you ever tried watermelon radishes? What's your favorite way to eat them?
Try these recipes with watermelon radishes!
Updated from a post originally published January 2010.
(Image credits: Emily Han; Sara Kate Gillingham)