Taste Test: Watermelon daikon

By Lisa Katayama


Looking at a slice of the watermelon daikon, you'd almost think it should taste like a real juicy watermelon. Of course, it doesn't — it tastes like an ordinary radish, except a little bit sweeter and more peppery. Some believe it's an heirloom variety of daikon, the long white Asian radish.

Daikon is high in fiber and low in fat, so it's great for weight loss; somewhat ironically, the term daikon ashi is used in Japan to refer to women who have thick legs. Daikon literally means big root. The origins of radish can be traced back to ancient Roman and Asian civilizations, though it's believed to have existed way back into the annals of undocumented history.

Watermelon daikon tends to get rubbery after a week, so if you want to preserve the pretty pink veggie, try this simple pickle recipe.

4108363606_c06a51027b.jpg Pickled watermelon daikon

Slice a couple of radishes and a small onion. Put them in a jar. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup of rice vinegar, 1/8 cup of sugar, and 1.5 tsp of salt. Pour the sugar-vinegar mixture over the radishes, then cover and refrigerate for one day.

Image via sleepyneko's Flickr

If you're not into pickles, you can eat the watermelon daikon by cutting it into thin slices and sprinkling salt on it. Or you can put it in a salad, which is what I did for dinner last night.

Image via kthread's Flickr Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

Published 9:00 am Fri, Dec 18, 2009

About the Author

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.

18 Responses to “Taste Test: Watermelon daikon”

  1. voivoed says:

    Watermelon daikon are great. We got a bunch this year from our local CSA and loved them. We ate them raw in salads, or cooked in a number of different ways.

  2. Chentzilla says:

    That daikon at top right looks vaquely erotic.

  3. Karl Jones says:

    … annals of undocumented history.

    This is a misnomer: annals are, by definition, documented history.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “daikon ashi” -> “radish foot” -> cankles?

  5. kslaboca says:

    All you need to know about watermellon daikon: tastes like radish, don’t eat it at a picnic;)

    • Jerril says:

      Don’t see what’s wrong for it as a picnic food. Unless you’re just repeating the original posts point, made in the first two sentences.

      Radishes are great, and the idea of a giant, sort of inside-out radish (white on the outside, pink-red on the inside) is fabulous.

  6. randalll says:

    I love me some daikon women. Time to write a blues song.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A bit of a surprise but a good one! Grew these once (it rained that year) but had to warn people that it’s a radish and therefor hot!

    The ones I grew seemed to be hotter than the ones I have bought from the Asian grocery. Perhaps, like my eye-watering Walla Walla onions, the veggies get concentrated because I grow everything in a very sandy garden in a semi-desert area!

    I don’t understand the comment by kslaboca: the only dangerous foods I know from picnics are bad potato salad and really old hot dogs. ;}

  8. absimiliard says:

    These things are delicious. I’m also one of the folks lucky enough to get them from our CSA in the most recent distribution of our winter shares.

    I particularly liked how it changed taste over time as I chewed it. Initially it was sweet. But the more I worked it over the more peppery it became. Seems that a lot of the kick is in the skin, so if you don’t like that bite try peeling it first.

    But yeah, Yummm.

    -abs really likes his CSA, definitely in for next year, Go Slow Food!!!! *cough* Sorry, get a little excited over how much tastier locally-grown seasonal veggies are

  9. Artimus Mangilord says:

    I love when you post recipes and general food related posts, Lisa. I’m going to try this one this weekend. Thanks!

  10. pimlottc says:

    On a related note, pickled /actual/ watermelon is quite delicious.

  11. Shelby Davis says:

    Oh! That’s what that is! I’ve heard of daikon roots and used to eat pickled slivers of those in Korea but never knew what it was! Thanks, boingboing.

  12. jjasper says:

    I dunno that I’d pickle it in anything reddish. I’d want to preserve that gorgeous purple color. I have picked Japanese white turnips in beet colored water, though. Delicious. I think I’ll pickle some more this weekend.

  13. jjasper says:

    Oops, that should have been “vinegar colored with beet juice”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Watermelong radish was a favorite salad ingredient in western China when I lived there. We would shred the radishes. We made a dressing by sweating garlic in some sesame oil, then tossing a little Chinse black inegar in the pan so that it evaporated a bit.

    Add some salt, and voila! Delicious.

  15. Mitch says:

    I could make a nice looking batch of kim chee with these.

  16. johanna-lea says:

    mitch- i am a kimchi addict…have made it with nappa,
    daikon, and down here in dixie, there are lovely tangy
    purpletop turnips. wish i could get watermelon radish
    without having to venture into atlanta….

  17. Anonymous says:

    They’re also really good sliced and roasted.