Happy Boy Produce

SEASON: Late Fall, Winter

Watermelon Radishes

Watermelons in Winter!?

Posted by Lo

There is nothing that perks up winter like a watermelon radish. With its crisp, bright red flesh and a mild-sweet peppery taste, it is a root that inspires both poetry and jokes. Like, what’s green and white on the outside and pink on the inside and can be cut into wedges for a delicious snack? No, it’s not a watermelon at all, but its namesake the watermelon radish. On the poetic side, its name in Chinese means "beauty in the heart", which is absolutely true – the center of each is unique, ranging from pale pink to vivid magenta and revealing a variety of stunning patterns. You may walk right past the display of these quick-growing roots in a store without even noticing them, but at Happy Boy Farms, we always cut a few open so you can’t help but see the beauty within. 
An heirloom variety native to China, watermelon radishes are larger and sweeter than traditional radishes. Traditional radishes sharpen in flavor as they grow larger, but these beauties actually sweeten over time. Looking like an inside-out-radish, the firm skin contrasts sharply with the crispy hot pink interior,  but both are edible. Just be forewarned – if there is a spice to the radish, it will be found in the skin rather than the sweet interior!

Like its relatives, the turnip and horseradish, watermelon radishes thrive in the cool climate of the central coast – a perfect Happy Boy veggie! We begin planting in the late summer and are able to deliver radishes in about 60 days.  We grow them faithfully every winter and harvest them at various stages to satisfy every taste bud.  
 

Raw ideas:
Eat them thinly sliced on buttered (or cream cheesed) pumpernickel bread with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and pepper (add dill if you dare!). Spread a wedge of radish with room temperature butter and add a dash of salt. Dress thinly sliced radishes with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and let sit 20 minutes before eating (if you can wait!) Pickle sliced radishes with vinegar, sugar and salt, and refrigerate in an air-tight container for a few days to create crispy crunchy pink pickles.

Cooking suggestions:
Sauté watermelon radishes simply with butter and salt or dress them up by sautéing in butter with shallots, adding water, then reducing until glazed. Toss in olive oil and roast them side by side with carrots and beet chunks for a beautiful root platter. Make them into chips – try deep frying and add cumin and salt, or toss in olive oil and salt and roast until most of the liquid has come out.

Storage

When selecting, choose radishes that are firm and without blemishes.  Store in a plastic bag or container in the fridge to keep fresh for several weeks. If the radish loses its firmness, perk it up in ice water for a few hours or slice and pickle it for eating in a few days.

Nutrition

A member of the superstar group of cruciferous vegetables, radishes help to promote digestive, liver and kidney health. In addition, they have high levels of the cancer-preventing agent vitamin C, along with folate and a host of other vitamins and minerals.  Full of fiber and protein, radishes are a great addition to a weight-loss diet because their roughage and water make you feel full with only about 10 calories per half cup.

Recipes and Pairings

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When you cut it open you’ll be surprised by its unique beauty and its sweet radish-y scent. You may find it hard to resist biting into its crunchy goodness, but don’t forget to try the many other ways this versatile veggie can be enjoyed – you can steam, mash, roast or sauté it, add it to soups and stews, or eat it raw or pickled in a salad.  One favorite of mine is to sauté slices in butter with salt and pepper.  It’s so good, it never quite makes it to the table…