This Deceptive Little Veggie Is The Hidden Gem Of The Produce Aisle

Crisp, slightly peppery and a gorgeous shade of magenta, watermelon radishes are a surprisingly sexy veggie.

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Single watermelon radish on a pink background

The watermelon radish may not look like much on the outside. Photo, iStock.

This is the time of year I raid the local produce aisles in search of watermelon radish. Every time I wheel out a grocery cart, I keep my fingers crossed that this unicorn of a vegetable will be piled up in one of the produce bins. Why such zeal? Because I’d happily never make another salad without watermelon radish again. A bowl of tossed greens just looks depressing without this gem-hued vegetable. If you haven’t yet discovered it’s delightful secret, add it to your shopping list, stat.

On the outside, the watermelon radish presents itself with the “meh” beige of a parsnip and the round, dull shape of a beet — definitely not a sexy vegetable. But when you slice into it, magic happens.

The interior glows with the vibrant pink colour of watermelon. The reveal is like opening a Kinder Egg or cutting into a creamy ball of a gooey fresh burrata: It’s surprise and delight on the cutting board. When shaved on a mandolin, each ring has a light green rim that frames a vibrant magenta core; this veggie was destined for an Instagram close-up.

watermelon radishes cut into thin slices

This is the prettiest way to convert radish haters. Photo, Heather MacMullin.

But its not all about looks. Flavour-wise, the watermelon radish is also a winner. An heirloom relative of the daikon radish, it’s crisp and mild — much less peppery than the standard red radish. It’s the prettiest way to convert the radish haters.

Watermelon radishes are also packed with vitamin C, so while you may be using them to make every dish look next-level impressive, you’re still reaping the nutritional benefits. Plus, prep is simple — all you have to do is wash and slice ’em. They’re most beautiful in full or half rounds, which you can get by using a sharp knife, vegetable peeler or mandolin.

I thoroughly recommending putting in some time to hunt down these beauties for yourself. They’re available year-round at middle- and high-end grocers (with peak season in spring and fall) so if you don’t spot them in the root vegetable section, just check with your produce manager. I bought them recently when I was in Loblaws; usually I find them next to the beets (the last place you’d normally find me in any grocery store), so start there.

watermelon radishes in grocery bin

Watermelon radishes can be hard to spot in the store. Here’s what you’re looking for.

Here’s how I use them

When they’re not going into my favourite salad (a combo of baby greens, mint, basil, cucumber, toasted nuts, goat cheese and green onions, with a lemon vinaigrette), watermelon radishes can seriously elevate a veggie platter, add colourful crunch to salad rolls or be turned into a bright pickle. Here’s a run-down to get you started:

Vegetable tray: Pump up the colour! As with all radishes, they are peppery and slightly bitter to taste, and more so the thicker you slice them, so keep the rounds on the thin side.

Salad: Way more appealing to the eye than your standard, monochrome vegetable (I’m looking at you, green peppers), they liven up every salad — from a Chef’s salad with blue cheese and ham to a lighter side salad. 

Salad rolls: Bored of normal salad? Buy rice paper wrappers, herbs and snappy vegetables, roll them up, and dip them in a creamy salad dressing. Try out these cucumber, radish and chicken salad rolls from the Chatelaine Kitchen.

Pickles: Like radishes, carrots, cabbage and onions, watermelon radishes are hardy enough stand up to pickling, and can be used much the same way.