Saturday 17 January 2015

New for 2015: watermelon radish

I do like a good radish, from the fast-growing salad and snacking varieties to the long cylindrical winter radishes. With Amethyst and Cherry Belle, I can throw some seeds in a row between the parsips in March and be eating crisp, juicy bite-sized radishes with ice-white flesh in April. The firmer textured Hilds Blauer Herbst Und Winter or the darker-skinned Violet de Gournay bring a mustard-and-pepper flavour to winter salads and roast vegetables.

I was lucky enough to have dinner at Skye Gyngell's new restaurant Spring a month or so back. While Spring's setting in Somerset House is moons away from the dirt-floor greenhouse at Petersham Nurseries, the food is immediately recognisable as hers - many flavours and ingredients familiar from the Petersham Nurseries menu and from her books. And in a menu full of seasonal vegetables, I was introduced to the watermelon radish. Actually we misread the menu description and thought the dish contained both watermelon and radish, but no, this is a heritage variety of daikon or mooli radish. It's also known as Red Meat, but I can see why the restaurant would much prefer to use the watermelon name.

The watermelon appellation comes from its colouring: when sliced, each disc is a striking fuchsia-pink in the middle with bright green skin. It has a clean, firm texture with a satisfyingly snappy crunch, not too mustardy in flavour. Indeed, according to seed supplier Mr Fothergills, the flavour becomes milder as the plants mature - the direct opposite of most radish varieties.

Hilds Blauer Herbst und Winter - bright purple skin encloses bright white flesh.

This is a radish to be sown direct in early summer and harvested in autumn in the UK, slightly later than Hilds Blauer Herbst und Winter which despite the name I have sown in spring and harvested in summer. I'm currently finding this variety very hard to obtain - Mr Fothergill seems to be out of stock and I'm hoping the watermelon radish will fill the gap.

Watermelon radish aka Red Meat radish, or Pink Beauty
Mr Fothergills
Kings Seeds
Nicky's Nursery

Hilds Blauer Herbst und Winter
Mr Fothergills - out of stock

Violet de Gournay

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