The watermelon radish, or shinrimei — a drab celadon on the outside and fuchsia fireworks inside — is winter's agricultural thermometer. From sow to harvest is about two months, and during that time both the soil and air temp should hover between the upper 60s and 50s. Major shifts in temperature affect flavor, but not in entirely unpleasant ways. It means flavor swings from sweet and mild to hot and spicy throughout the season, fluctuating almost from week to week. Once the weather sneaks past 70 degrees, the season is done. Any whisper of warmth prompts immediate bolting (or flowering), turning the root into a bitter mouthful.
But let's set flavor and temperament aside. In the winter seasonal lineup, the watermelon radish is the bright — literally — showstopper in a winter market full of kale, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. We love kale, but adding little triangles of hot pink to all that dark and gloomy green provides a little splash of sun during these short and chilly days.
Locating watermelon radishes at local farmers markets was a challenge as little as a few years ago, and last year's warm winter made availability spotty at best. This winter's chill has stayed steady (fingers crossed) and the watermelon radish crops — just arriving — are very promising.
If uniformity is your thing, the watermelon radish probably is not the root for you. The sizes range from golf ball to softball as the season progresses and new crops are harvested alongside radishes that were sown early.
Smaller watermelon radishes tend to be on the milder side, crisp and sweet with an internal starburst pattern that fades into a white and green rind. As the season, and the radishes, progress, the pink dominates, infusing everything except a small border of the outer green rind. At this point, the radish develops a spicier zing along with some fiber. The outer skin also toughens, requiring a quick peel. For fresh eating, select for smaller roots. The largest harvests do best sliced paper-thin on a mandoline, shredded or pickled.
Weiser Family Farms is optimistic about this season's watermelon radishes and predicts having them around into the early part of spring. You can find them at the Santa Monica (Wednesday and Saturday), Venice (Friday), Topanga (Friday), Pasadena (Saturday), and the Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Claremont, Hollywood and Mar Vista markets on Sunday.
Find your local market on our interactive farmers market map.
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