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Veggie Highlight: Hakurei Turnips and Watermelon Radishes

In my last post on Jerusalem artichokes, I mentioned there were a couple other new (for me anyway) discoveries in my CSA delivery.  I couldn't believe I had never had either before!  They were so delicious, I've already ordered seeds from Amazon and got them planted in my garden so I can enjoy more!

turnipsThe first is the Hakurei turnip. This lovely white small turnip is a salad turnip - no cooking required! Love that. There's also a similar variety you may see called the Toyko Cross turnip.

They are grown primarily during the cooler months, in Spring and Fall, so can be found in stores now.

Hakurei turnips have a sweet, mild flavor without the spicy or bitter flavor of traditional turnips (translation: kid friendly!). For prep, you just wash them and cut off the greens before eating - no need to peel. Fantastic sliced or chunked into a salad. Use them in place of water chestnuts for their apple-like crunch. Another idea is to serve thick slices of hakurei turnips and radishes with a dip - a healthy and colorful 'chip and dip'. If so inclined, you can eat the greens as well - best mixed in with other hearty mustard greens like arugula.


One more great reason to eat them: they're chockful of vitamin C and a relative to cabbage so they also contain 2 phytochemicals - indoles and sulforaphane, the good kind of chemicals being studied for their anti-cancer properties.

The second new vegetable is the watermelon radish.  I actually thought it was a traditional turnip when I first saw it!

watermelon_radishThe watermelon radish is an heirloom Chinese Daikon radish. You may also see it called a red daikon. Same as turnips, arugula, and broccoli, it's a member of the Brassica (mustard) family.

The outsides are a creamy white and green color. But cut them open and - SURPRISE! - they're a beautiful striated hot pink inside! The green rind and pink interior give it the 'watermelon' appearance.

They are actually one of the prettiest vegetables I've ever seen.  I know what I'm bringing to summer BBQs this year.....already picturing colorful bowls involving onions, maybe some goat cheese.......mmmm.

130124Watermelon radishes have a more mild peppery flavor compared to traditional radishes so they're a great addition to salad.  We just ended up eating bowlfuls of them with a little oil, vinegar, salt and pepper - delicious!

One of my favorite factoids I came across is that the watermelon radish’s Chinese name, Xin Li Mei or Shinrimei, translates to mean “in one’s heart beautiful”.  I thought that was lovely as I remembered my initial disappointment upon first seeing this vegetable, thinking it was just an ugly turnip.  A beautiful reminder you can never judge a book by its cover!

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