Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Watermelon Radish: A Purple (Fuschia?) Pickle

Watermelon radishes entered my culinary life on a dismal, wet Sunday morning at the local farmer's market this winter.  From the outside these fist sized roots bear only a hint of their bright interiors; I almost passed them by in my haste to seek shelter from the rain.

Then I noticed that Asian American shoppers were quickly snapping them up in quantity. I took the hint that I had come upon a vegetable kingdom delicacy and brought some home for further exploration. As soon as I cut one open, I was inspired by its gorgeous color to turn the whole batch into watermelon radish pickles. The process was quick and easy and the finished product so delicious that I have been making them regularly ever since. You might want to double the recipe!


3 - 4  medium watermelon radishes
2 cups fresh water
1 teaspoon sea salt


Scrub radishes and trim off the tops and bottoms. Slice into rounds, then cut rounds into strips. In a bowl, dissolve sea salt in water. Pack radish pieces into a very clean glass jar and pour in the brine. If all the slices are not completely covered in liquid, make a little extra and add to the jar. As long as the vegetables are immersed in brine, only healthy microorganisms will multiply as fermentation begins.

Cover jar with a lid but do not tighten; a little breathing room is necessary for the gases produced by fermentation. Place jar on kitchen counter; your work is done!  The radishes will begin to ferment after a day or two, depending on the temperature of your kitchen and other atmospheric variables. In a few days the brine and the radishes will turn a uniformly deep purple - fuschia tint.

After four or five days, the radishes will have a pleasingly tart- sour flavor and will still be somewhat crunchy. I usually ferment the pickles for about five days; then I place the jar in the fridge where they will continue to ferment at a slower pace. They are edible at any stage. 

Pickled watermelon radish will compliment almost any vegetable dish. Lately I've been eating them with steamed vegetables like Brussels sprouts tossed with toasted sesame seeds and tofu cubes. Or add radishes to a steaming bowl of lentils or black beans as a garnish, or simply serve as a side dish.  Fermented radishes are packed with beneficial microorganisms and will add striking flavor and beauty to your meal.