Yesterday, nestled among boxes bursting with green lettuce, potted rosemary, and fresh dill at Bee Heaven Farm's stand at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market, there was a root vegetable that resembled a stunted parsnip or a pale rutabaga. It was round and thick, about two inches in diameter, and it seemed like nothing more than an unassuming root, scattered among a lush bounty of greenery.
But, once sliced, it was clear that this was no humble turnip. The interior had a starburst pattern, bursting in bright hues of fuchsia, which contrasted with a white-green exterior. It's this disparity of colors that inspires the root's moniker: the watermelon radish, or red heart radish.
To put things rather simply, it's one of the most stunning root vegetables in season now.
Watermelon radishes are a heirloom variety of daikon radishes, and are known as shinrimei in China, where they originate. Unlike regular, smaller peppery radishes, this variety is milder and sweeter in flavor. The root is obviously much bigger than a regular variety, and it can reach a diameter of three or four inches. Larger roots are usually completely deep pink on the inside, with only a thin line of green bordering on the exterior.
At Pinecrest Farmers Market, Bee Heaven Farm's stand was selling a pair of certified organic watermelon radishes for $2.50. The root is in season now, during winter. But there can be up to two or three harvests through out the entire year.
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When it comes to serving watermelon radishes, there are several options like pickling, roasting, or even mashing. However, none of these can match the ooh's and ah's garnered by simply slicing with a mandoline and placing in a salad. Now, that's locavorism done right.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.