Beauty Heart radishes won me over the moment the produce guy at the co-op cut into a big one with pale green skin and white shoulders. I’d assumed it was an odd variety of turnip. But inside this radish is a vibrant magenta “heart.” Displayed amid the dowdy parsnips, rutabaga and beets, the cut beauty is fetchingly garish. Rumor has it that this variety of winter radish was originally called “meat radish,” until a marketing-savvy Wisconsin farmer landed on a more appealing name.
Winter radishes are bigger than their tiny spring cousins (red cherry bell or the oblong French breakfast) and take much longer to mature. Beauty Heart, like the long white daikon, is harvested in the fall and stored far into winter. Members of the broccoli family, radishes are prized in China for their peppery flavors that cleanse the palate and are often served between courses. They’re a great source of potassium, fiber and vitamin B.
The Beauty Heart’s flavor is milder than other radishes — almost sweet. It will perk up an appetizer plate and simple salad. The Beauty Heart is spectacular when thinly sliced and served on open-faced sandwiches of dark rye spread with sweet butter and sprinkled with a little coarse sea salt. Thinly sliced, the Beauty Heart is also wonderful added to stir-fries at the very last minute or floated on top of creamy soups. It’s also mild enough to enjoy on its own as a quick snack.
Look for these beauties at winter farmers markets, area co-ops and most grocery stores; but do watch for them because they’re easy to miss.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.