Watermelon radish looks exactly like miniature watermelons with a pale green exterior and lush pink interior. Despite the name, however, watermelon radishes do not taste anywhere close to what watermelons taste like!
Watermelon radishes originated in China. They are known as “xin li mei” in Mandarin, which roughly translates to “in one’s heart beautiful”, which is a perfect description given the pinkish undertone of the watermelon radish. The name watermelon radish was given due to its resemblance to the juicy summer fruit. When the watermelon radishes arrived in America, they were first called “red meat radishes”, before some knowing marketer changed the name.
Watermelon radish has a crunchy texture with a juicy, slightly sweet taste. The flavor overall is a bit mild and it also has a somewhat peppery flavor to it as well. The mild flavor is in comparison with that of traditional red radishes.
Watermelon radish can be used in various recipes, either as a substitute for red radishes or as a stand-out on its own. Pickled watermelon radish is one of the most famous recipes out there. A simple soak in vinegar gives the radish a zesty bite and softens the overall texture.
Watermelon radish is well known for its versatility and pairs beautifully with cheese, bacon, cilantro, and eggs. In Chinese cuisine, watermelon radish is often used with seafood.
There are some easy radish recipes to get you started on your watermelon radish adventure. Let’s start with Salmon with Roasted Fennel and Radish; the crunchy pink radish goes superbly with the tender salmon and thinly sliced fennel. The crunchy texture of the radish complements the soft salmon perfectly, and not to mention the plate looks vibrantly colorful with the combination of salmon, fennel, and radish.
The watermelon radish can be a perfect substitute for turnips. Try our recipe for Turnip Gratin, but instead of turnips, substitute watermelon radish. Both turnips and radishes are root vegetables that are fairly interchangeable. Radishes usually are served raw, but can handle some heat. You could also use a 50/50 mix of turnips and watermelon radish for a spunky, peppery twist to this classic dish.
You can substitute regular red radishes with watermelon radishes in our Spring Steak Salad recipe. In this recipe you already have the crunchy elements like asparagus and almonds, but watermelon radish not only adds crunchiness but also a peppery, sweet and juicy flavor which would complement steak well.
In order to store watermelon radish, separate the greens from the roots and store them individually. Store both the greens and the roots in the humidity drawer of your fridge, but store the greens in an airtight container and the roots in a breathable container.