Picture of a pile of Daikon (giant white radish) in a supermarket in Japan. Deutsch: Daikon japanischer Typ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The first time I met a daikon radish was at a macrobiotic cooking class many years ago.
It was love at first bite - rather than the sharp taste of the salad radishes I was used to, the daikon had a more earthy, tempered and pleasant taste. I was hooked.
I have grown daikon many times since that long ago day, despite having given up my feeble attempts at the macrobiotic lifestyle years ago.
Daikon may not be too widely known in the U.S., but they are one of the most widely grown crops in Japan and other parts of Asia. And with good cause; every part of this delicious vegetable can be used.
The tops can be substituted in recipes calling for greens, steamed, or chopped and added to soup stock. The root can be eaten raw (grated with carrots is particularly tasty), steamed, stir-fried or baked.
Daikon is very easy to grow, and only takes 40-60 days to reach maturity. The roots can grow quite large - up to 18 inches - so be sure to give seedlings more room than you would for salad radishes.
Daikon grow best during the cooler months. For most parts of North America, daikon can be sown twice - one in early spring for a summer harvest and again after the summer heat has cooled for a late fall harvest.
Be sure to harvest daikon roots before the plants set flowers or you'll end up with a nearly-wooden tasting root. Take care when harvesting and go slowly; the roots can be somewhat delicate and brittle.
Daikon is hard to freeze but easy and delicious to pickle. It also dries well. The dried and powdered root can be reconstituted with water to make a tasty winter broth.
You can also preserve daikon with proper root cellaring (best in moist sawdust) or leave the roots in the ground (but you'll need to remove them before the ground freezes over).
The easiest way to preserve the roots is by removing the tops (use them to make soup stock) and putting the roots in the refrigerator, where they will keep for 1-2 months if stored properly.
Have you ever grown daikon? If not, do you plan to give it a try?