What's in Season

Watermelon Radish Crudo

Thinly sliced and simply dressed, the pink and green root veggies are a feast for the eyes and belly

An illustration of a pink and green watermelon radish bunch

Illustration: JOHN BURGOYNE

Spectacular. That’s the word that came to mind the first time New Orleans native Chris Borges laid eyes on a watermelon radish. “I was in school in California, in the mecca of sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table, and so we were seeing a lot of great produce, including the watermelon radish,” says Borges, now the executive chef at Commons Club at Virgin Hotels New Orleans. “There’s no other word. Their beauty speaks for itself.” Native to China, the radish doesn’t actually taste like watermelon, but slice into one and you’ll immediately understand where it gets its name. The interior is bright reddish pink, with contrasting green edging. And it’s not just a pretty face. It has a milder flavor than a typical red radish, which makes for easy eating, and “without a doubt, I think it has the best texture of any radish,” Borges says. “The meat is a bit firmer and denser than some of your smaller radishes and even your daikon, and it gets crispier than any other.” Watermelon radishes reach peak sweetness after developing sugars in the ground all winter, usually around early March. At a farm stand or market, choose any that feel heavy for their size and are firm and blemish-free. Then simply scrub, slice thin (a mandoline is best for the job), and pair with other early spring veggies—snap peas and snow peas are excellent choices. One of Borges’s favorite preps is in a simple crudo with an anchovy dressing and shaved Parmesan (see recipe). “I don’t like to complicate things with watermelon radish,” he says. “It’s the star—the belle of the ball.”

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  • Watermelon Radish Crudo (Yield: 4 servings)

  • For the crudo:

    • ½ lb. watermelon radishes, scrubbed well

    • 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks removed

    • 2 hearts of celery (innermost pale ribs and yellow leaves)

    • Salt

    • ½ lemon

    • 6 tbsp. salsa verde (recipe follows)

    • 1 small piece of Parmesan (about 2 oz.), shaved

  • For the salsa verde dressing: 

    • 1 cup parsley leaves, loosely packed, then finely chopped 

    • ⅓ cup tarragon leaves, loosely packed, then finely chopped 

    • 1 tsp. minced garlic 

    • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil 

    • Zest of 1 lemon 

    • 1 tbsp. capers, rinsed and roughly chopped 

    • 1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped 

    • Salt, to taste


  1. Make the crudo: Thinly slice watermelon radish and fennel using a mandoline (or by hand with a sharp knife). Thinly slice celery by hand. Place radish slices in a small bowl, season lightly with salt, and toss with a squeeze of lemon. Arrange radish slices on a plate in a thin single layer. Place fennel slices and celery in the bowl. Season with salt and lemon, and toss gently. Scatter over radish slices, taking care not to cover up too much of the beautiful radish.

  2. Make the salsa verde: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Drizzle over crudo, and serve with shaved Parmesan on the side.