January 11, 2015
The watermelon radish – also known as Shinrimei, Rooseheart and Red Meat – is a heirloom Chinese Daikon radish. It’s a member of the mustard family [along with arugula, broccoli and turnips]. The Watermelon radish is made up of an edible globular root attached to thin stems and wavy green leaves. Its exterior is creamy white in color with pale green shoulders [a sign of the chlorophyl it received from exposure to the sun].
The Watermelon radish’s flesh is white closest to the exterior becoming bright circular striations of pink and magenta – hence the watermelon reference. Its flesh is tender crisp, succulent and firm. Its flavor is quite spice, slightly peppery with almond-sweet notes. Depending on when harvested, Watermelon radishes can range in size from golf ball to soft ball.
Watermelon radishes are available year round with peak seasons in spring and late fall, since they are a cool season crop. They prefer cooler soil temperatures – overly warm soil temperatures affect the radish’s flavor, turning a mild pepper flavor into a bitter sting.
Daikons are most flavorful and juicy during winter.
SHOPPING + STORAGE
Look for roots that feature fresh, stout and firm in texture. Their top greens also should be fresh, and feature crispy green without any yellow, shriveled leaves. Avoid roots that have cracks or cuts on their surface. Look carefully for the change in their texture and color. Yellowness indicated the stock is old. If the root yields to pressure and feels soft – the interior is likely pithy instead of crispy.
Once at home, remove the top greens as they rob nutrients of the root. Then wash thoroughly in clean water to rid the surface of dust and soil. Store [like other root vegetables] in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator [for up to a week].
Avoid peeling the skin – which gives it the peppery pungent flavor. Just wash the root thoroughly, trim the tip ends. If you have to peel – gently pare away superficial thin layers only.
Watermelon radishes can be served fresh or cooked, hot or cold. They can be braised or roasted like turnip, or mashed like rutabaga – but note that while cooking they loose their beautiful color. Better serve them raw in salads or on a veggie plate with some dip. Watermelon radishes can also be pickled.
They pair well with fennel, apple, cheeses [such as feta and chèvre], butter, creamy based dressings, vinaigrettes, bacon, white fish, cucumbers, mild salad greens, cooked eggs, noodles [such as soba and udon], citrus, cilantro, mint and tarragon.
Since ancient times, Chinese believe that eating radish and other brassica group vegetables [such as cabbage and cauliflower] would bring wholesome health.
Radishes have very few calories but are a very good source of anti-oxidants, electrolytes, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber. Fresh they are an excellent source of Vitamin C and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and calcium.
Nutritional value per 100g [% of Daily Value]