Seven years ago I would not have believed that a radish could be beautiful. Seven years ago I had never heard of a watermelon radish. Then we joined a CSA and in the late fall I cut into my first watermelon radish and it was a startling thing: the very opposite of your regular salad radish, which, as you know, is red on the outside, plain white inside. The watermelon radish, however, is innocuous on the outside, homely even: large, lumpy, the peel coloured a mix of fungal green and mottled, pockmarked white—you might even mistake it for a turnip. But inside there’s an explosion of purplish-pink, like a grenade of pink has gone off, suffusing the flesh but stopping just short of the outer rim.
It’s good not to be sentimental about even beautiful vegetables though and I don’t want you to think that I left my family to take up with a bunch of watermelon radishes with whom I’ve since been living in uncomfortable and confusing sin. I cut that radish into chunks, dipped them into salt and ate them.
And it was good: mellower and milder than your average radish but still obviously radishy. I’ve gone on to use them in many different ways: julienned and pickled, grated into raita, braised with goat. But the simplest prep remains the best, the very taste of fall: sliced into thin disks, lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive, salt and pepper, fanned out on a large platter for full effect. The only difficulty, if you don’t belong to a righteous CSA, is going to be finding a watermelon radish.
- 1 large watermelon radish, peeled and sliced into thin disks
- Balsamic vinegar (or other vinegar of choice)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Drizzle some balsamic vinegar onto a large platter.
- Arrange the radish over the vinegar.
- Drizzle some more baslamic vinegar and some olive oil over the radish.
- Sprinkle some sea salt and add a few grindings of pepper.
- Set aside for at least 30 minutes before eating.