One of the very first things I did after we relocated to Austin, TX a few weeks ago is sign up for a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) service. I’m all about supporting local agriculture and quality, organic produce, plus it’s so much fun to get a surprise vegetable every now and then that you wouldn’t normally find. So you can imagine how excited I was when my first CSA box included a special favorite of mine: watermelon radishes!
For those who are not familiar with this veggie, a watermelon radish is an heirloom Chinese daikon that is especially cultivated during the winter months as it can withstand colder temperatures. This type of radish is also sometimes referred to as a “cinderella radish” or even “red meat radish”, and if you cut into it you’ll quickly find out why: despite it’s white exterior, it’s fleshy interior is a bright magenta pink.
Why is this so? The inside flesh of the watermelon radish is high in flavonoids, a pigmentation compound found in plants and some fungi. Different types of flavonoids give rise to different color pigmentations; this type of radish contains three carotenoids, a sub-class of flavonoids: zeaxanthin (red-orange), lutein (red-orange), and beta-Carotene (orange). The pigmentation that each of these compounds have is based on what light colors are absorbed and reflected: whatever color is reflected is the pigmentation that the compound has and all the other colors are absorbed. Beta-Carotene, for example, reflects orange light, making it appear orange, and absorbed all the other colors in the visible light spectrum. Pigments in dark leafy greens (known as chlorophyll), on the other hand, reflects green light instead.
Aside from being gorgeous, these watermelon radishes have a mild peppery flavor to them that I love. My favorite is to make them into chips to top crostini with a tart goat cheese, some thyme for seasoning, and a little bit of honey to give a subtle sweet undertone. This beautiful appetizer is always a huge hit!