What Are Watermelon Radishes?

These gorgeous root vegetables are so much more than a salad topper.

watermelon radishes on a wooden cutting board

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Watermelon radishes are root vegetables that are fast growing and capable of withstanding cold weather. That is why they're often some of the spring's first new crops. Whether you want to add crunch or texture to a meal or have a pretty garnish, watermelon radishes will bring plenty of color and flavor to any dish.

What Are Watermelon Radishes?

Watermelon radishes are an heirloom variety of the daikon radish, a white tubular radish. Watermelon radishes stand out for their vibrant magenta interior, white skin, and thin, green outer rim, which gives the radish its name for its similarities to the summer fruit.

Common in many Asian dishes, watermelon radishes originated in China and are called shinri-mei in Chinese, which translates to "beauty in the heart." With its bright reddish or pinkish interior, the radish's name is certainly fitting.

Watermelon radishes are part of the Brassicaceae plant family. It's the same family as cauliflower and broccoli. These plants can handle colder weather when other crops can’t handle the drop in temperatures.

Watermelon Radish Season

Watermelon radishes grow best in late fall through the spring.

You can find them at farmers’ markets and Asian grocery stores. Depending on where you live, however, you may find them year-round, although they thrive during cooler weather.

What Do Watermelon Radishes Taste Like?

Radishes are known for their spicy, peppery kick. Watermelon radishes are a bit more subtle with hints of black pepper.

Sometimes these radishes are compared to arugula because of their flavor. Want a more neutral flavor? Cook them, and the flavor will be more subtle.

How To Select Watermelon Radishes

When you’re ready to buy some watermelon radishes, there are a few things you want to pay attention to.

  • They should feel heavy when you pick one up.
  • They should be firm to the touch. If it’s squishy or has a spongy feel, that's a sure sign it’s on its way out.
  • The skin should be free of blemishes, too.
  • Bigger than the typical radish, watermelon radishes can range in size from the size of a golf ball to even a soft ball.
  • If the leafy greens are still attached, they should look fresh, firm and vibrant. If they are, that's a sure sign the radishes were recently harvested.

How To Store Watermelon Radishes

Watermelon radishes will last for about a month in the fridge. Wrap them in a moist paper towel, and store them in the crisper drawer. Refresh the paper towel every few days.

Did you cut up one but don’t want to use all of it in one go? No problem! Store the remainder in a glass or plastic container, or place it in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

watermelon radishes in clear glass container

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Use Watermelon Radishes

Watermelon radishes can be eaten raw, pickled, cooked, braised, and even roasted, just like you would beets or carrots.

Because these are so colorful, watermelon radishes often take center stage as a plated raw salad with some crumbly, tangy cheese, such as goat cheese, or tossed into a leafy green salad. The radishes can also be grated or thinly sliced and added to a coleslaw.

Cut them up in matchsticks, like you would jicama or carrots, and eat as a healthy snack, or slice them up and then drizzle with olive oil and some salt. These fun vegetables are versatile so don’t hesitate to incorporate them into dishes that call for other root vegetables, like potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, or rutabagas.

Another bonus of this variety of radish is you don’t have to worry about peeling it before eating. Just make sure you scrub it, and remove any dirt.

Don’t toss the greens, either. You can use them in a stir-fry, sauté them for a quick side, or even add to a salad—but taste test first because they can have a strong flavor.

Radish, Avocado, and Citrus Salad with Orange-Poppy Seed Dressing
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch; Food Styling: Torie Cox
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