I love radishes for their crisp texture and slight bite. Bring on Japanese daikon, Chinese luo buo, Korean moo, and one of my all-time favorites, the watermelon radish. It looks sad on the outside, mostly off white and often mottled, and resembles a turnip tinged with green at the shoulders and light pink at the root. But cut one open and the inner flesh is reddish and white, radiating toward the edge to become white and finishing as lime green. It’s a feast for your eyes. As for the flavor, watermelon radish has a marvelously sweet-bite, though it turns a bit bitter when growing conditions are hot. Watermelon radish is a Chinese heirloom variety that also goes by red meat radish, rose heart. In Mandarin, the radish is called shinrimei, which literally means “beauty in the heart.” (Note to Chinese speakers, the ‘shin’ is misspelled in English botanical terms, but it is really xin, meaning heart, as in dian xin/dim sum.)
Last week’s weather was cool so the watermelon radish that I picked up from Coke Farms at the farmer’s market were nicely sweet. Radishes are typically spring and winter crop but watermelon radishes can be cultivated year-round if the temperatures are moderate, like they are here in Santa Cruz.