For many people, daikon is largely only familiar as the small pile of glistening white shreds artfully added as a garnish to plates of sashimi or sushi. This is a shame, though, as the giant white member of the radish family,’ Daikon’ in Japanese,’ Mooli’ in India and ‘Lobok’ to the Cantonese, is a very versatile vegetable and well worth incorporating into one’s regular menu.
Today’s post will not only allow us to take a look at this useful foodstuff, but will also allow me to share with you an update of my wife’s (now concluded) Greenhouse Project …
The first picture actually shows some daikon that my wife grew last year in the local Community Greenhouse. Daikon can get up to two feet long and several inches in diameter and, though her produce didn’t quite get that big, these ones were pretty respectably sized for having been grown in the Arctic.
Sadly, our yield this year was a bit less than spectacular. Not only could my wife not plant until late in our already very short season, we had pretty lousy weather for most of the summer, with days of snow in July, August and September. Still, we managed to get a total of 11lbs of usable fodder (including the greens), and it must be said that the smaller daikon are often tastier than the huge ones.
Here you can see a close-up of some daikon trimmed of their greens. The likeness to the more familiar white radishes often served in salads in the west is quite apparent. The taste of the raw vegetable is also quite similar, but daikon, in contrast to either red or white radishes, is much milder, and doesn’t have the very peppery, sometimes bitter quality you often experience in its much smaller cousins.
Simply put, Daikon can be put to any use as can any of the root vegetables that are tasty when eaten raw. You can use it in salads or as a garnish, as with regular radishes, and it is very nice when pickled (as typified by several different styles of Korean Kimchi). It can be stir-fried, included in curries, or, as is often done in in both Japanese and Chinese cuisine, incorporated into hot-pot style braises and stews.
Typically, when you buy daikon in a store it is shorn of its greens, but if you grow it yourself, or purchase it whole, this part of the plant should not be neglected. The greens can be quite robust, and this needs to be taken into consideration when choosing the cooking method, but, basically, they can be used in much the same way as Kale.
For most uses, it is advisable to blanch the greens as this will not only help tenderize them, but also allows them to retain some of their nice green coloring during subsequent cooking methods. This can be achieved by immersing them in boiling, salted water for about 5 or 10 seconds, plunging them in very cold water to arrest the cooking, and then squeezing dry.
The root portion of daikon stores very well (a few months in a cool, dark place, like a root-cellar), but the greens are a bit more delicate. I blanched all our greens(we had about 5lbs or so all told) and then wrapped them tightly for freezing. I did keep a little bit aside, which was stir-fried along with pork and Udon noodles, but the bulk of what remains will be chopped and stir-fried with rice. This is a favorite way of using it for my wife and I and it is a great way of including greens in the diet of fussy eaters who might otherwise balk at eating them.
Anyway, it is a shame that our small yield this year won’t allow me to do some of the culinary projects I had in mind but I do have a couple of uses planned for the little we do have and I will be posting the results in due course…