Strange Veggies: Daikon

This strange veggie isn’t much of a stranger at all. In fact, it’s a mainstay of traditional Japanese cuisine. But for many people living in this country, daikon probably sounds more like the name of a comic book villain than something you eat. So for the benefit of the uninformed, let’s see what we can turnip—I mean turn up—about this versatile root vegetable.

Versatility certainly sums up daikon. According to Wikipedia daikon can be prepared and eaten in many different ways; shredded, grated, dried, and with sushi, just to name a few. Not mention, it’s believed that Buddhist monks once pickled daikon to help preserve it through the winter. For more on that, let’s check out daikon’s Wikipedia page:
Shredded and dried daikon is called kiriboshi daikon, literally cut-and-dried daikon. Pickled whole daikon, called takuan in Japanese and danmuji in Korean, often takes a bright yellow color. Takuan is used in sushi and as a garnish for white rice. It is claimed, but not historically supported, that a Buddhist monk called Takuan Soho first made this pickled daikon to preserve vegetables for the long winter.


Fresh leaves of daikon can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable but they are often removed when sold in a store because they do not adjust well to the refrigerator, yellowing quite easily. Daikon sprouts, known as kaiware, are a popular garnish for salads and sushi.
Now you won’t find that kind of versatility with baloney! Maybe that’s why daikon in Japanese means “great root.” But as Bill Daley of The Chicago Tribune points out, some people want to call it “wonder root” as well. Why? Well, it’s believed that daikon also has some medicinal properties. Bill Daley explains:
For not only is daikon a natural digestive rich in vitamins A, C and E, but the root is a "marvelous" natural remedy for a hangover. "A cupful of grated daikon should do the trick," writes Barber in "Japanese Light."


Daikon is refreshingly crisp with a slight peppery kick.

One of the most common ingredients in Japanese cooking, daikon is most frequently used finely grated, according to the classic, just re-released book by Shizuo Tsuji, "Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art." So ubiquitous is the grated root that there are even special daikon graters.

Given that daikon is thought to aid digestion of oily foods, it is no surprise that it often is found in the dipping sauce used with tempura and other fried foods.
So, what does daikon look like? To be honest it kind of looks like a big white carrot. Here’s some fresh picked daikon courtesy of Bookish Gardener, take a peek:



Now, I’m not exactly sure which type of daikon it is because if you check EverGreenSeeds.com, you’ll see that there are well over a dozen different varieties of white oriental radishes. Some have a green neck, others are better for pickling, and while the rest are just pretty basic. Take these for example:
Daikon Radish, Miyashige Green Neck
Long and large Daikon with green neck and white flesh.


Oriental Radish, Hybrid April Cross
Pure white and straight shape radish. Excellent quality.

Daikon, Hybrid Minowase Summer Cross

Excellent quality Daikon radish for cooking, pickling and salad.
Alright then, let’s not forgot the most important question of all? How does daikon stack up nutrition-wise? Sure, it looks promising and sounds tasty, but how good for us is it? Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a nutritional heavy weight. I found these produce Nutrition Facts on Whole Foods’ website. Look how daikon compares to kale and fellow strange veggie kohlrabi:

Daikon


Kale


Kohlrabi


Personally, this won't discourage me. As many of you know, there are a lot worse nutrient-low foods you can eat. Now, as I mentioned in last week’s Eating to Live on the Outside: Health in a Hurry I’ve never tried daikon, but, now that I know a little more about it, I’m a man on a mission. In the words of Blue Oyster Cult, daikon, “I’m burning-I’m burning for you.”


And remember, strange veggies and freaky fruits are everywhere—keep your eyes peeled, you never know when one might come out of the woodwork.
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Comments (10) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
sakura tyson - February 26, 2008 9:19 AM

hurrah for daikon!!!
my mum grows daikon in the garden, takes off the leaves, dries them in the sun then grinds the dry leaves in a blender to make a healthy daikon leave medicene drink.
ive just drank one thats why im checking out the health benefits here now.
i mixed powdered daikon leaves with a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of ginger powder.
All i can say is ....woweeee.
@eace to the universe!!!!!
I beam kind and loving thoughtxxxxx

marks - September 22, 2008 10:03 PM

wish I know more about the health benefit from the daikon leaves.. is it good for kidney failure

Ravi Sadana - January 12, 2010 5:05 PM

I'm surprized that not more is written about Daikon. It's called Mooli in India and has been an Ayurvedic medicinal element for the gastro-intestinal tract for thousands of years. Diuretic and elimination benefits are particularly notable in the hot summer months.
Mooli is eaten with lemon juice and black pepper as a salad with meals, twice a day, especially in hot months.
It comes in a variety of pungent grades, some so strong that eating in raw form will burn the tongue (almost like wasabi). The red skin variety I found in Mexico and the purple in Germany are most pungent, but of great medicinal benefit for the intestinal tract.
When eaten with copious quantity of Lopchu tea the benefits are multiplied many times thru absorption. Recipe for tea follows:
{Shimla tea is made with Lopchu or other Darjeeling tea, with a quarter teaspoon tea leaves, seven fennel seeds, (3 cardamums buds, a bit of clove kernel and 1/2 inch long cinnamon strip, all except the tea and fennel, ground together with a pastel-mortar especially reserved for the tea ritual). Water should be spring pure free of chlorine. Quantity is a teapot size of about 50 fluid Oz.(4 mugs) After pouring the boiling water in the mixture which is already in the pot, add a very small lump of unrefined evaporated suger cane juice - piloncio from Mexico or gurr from India. Cover the teapot with a teacosy and brew for seven minutes. Then add one teaspoon of milk, stir and pour to serve.}

Because hot tea and mooli juice are absorbed thru the stomach walls immediately, the balancing effect is phenomenal.

Tha major drawback is quick gas release in the stomach and discharge with a belch which can be annoying to company. It may also have a pungent aroma depending upon the strength of the Mooli.

More to come as I gather facts on this wonder root.

TeeJay - April 5, 2010 12:10 PM

To cook daikon: peel like a carrot and slice into 1-1.5 inch thick disks. Boil these for about 20 minutes on a stove. Stir fry them in a pan until they are a little bit golden brown, with whatever fixin's you want (I think garlic, salt, oil and pepper is great). It has great texture and will really take on the flavor of whatever stir fry you use.

Guillermo - August 5, 2010 7:02 PM

just made pickled veggies (daikon, carrot, radishes)
cut vegetables in sticks or your favorite shape :P
1 cup of vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 tablespoon grounded pepper
1/4 tablespoon salt, bring vinegar with all that to boil and then let cool a little,
add to chopped veggies, let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Quite good!

sue - February 15, 2011 10:31 AM

Just shread or julianne and sauteed/fry them in a little oil as in Asian dishes, put a little green onion for flavor or onion/garlic salt, no need to eat it raw, a cooked variety is delicious. Asian folks use it for soup and all sorts of dishes. Enjoy!

Greg Krakow - November 4, 2011 7:31 PM

I have been growing a small amount of daikon for several years, because I love the shredded roots in my salad. Last year I heard you could eat the leaves by cooking them like other greens; they are delicious. My latest discovery last week is that the leaves are wonderful raw. Even mature leaves have a delicious delicate flavor. I find them much sweeter milder when eaten raw than the mustard, collards, arugula or turnips in my garden.

K - January 7, 2012 2:57 AM

I heard that the shoots are really nutrient-packed, sad that they're discarded usually.....

Tina S. - February 8, 2012 11:46 AM

You can also make daikon kimchi, which is a staple in Korean cuisine. I cut daikon into half-inch cubes, then add salt, garlic, chopped green onions, a little sugar and cayenne pepper. I mix this well and leave it in a loosely covered glass bowl on the counter for a couple days, stirring twice a day. After it starts bubbling and fermenting, I put it in glass jars and keep it in the fridge. Yum!
You can find various recipes online that list the actual proportions of the ingredients.

Van - October 31, 2012 4:08 PM

It is also a Cruciferous Vegetable. Does it have the same ITC's as other Cruciferous vegetables?

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