roots, vegetables

Daikon Radish

Daikon History

The word Daikon comes from two Japanese words: “Dai” which means “large”, and “kon” which means “root”. Daikon is a root vegetable native to the Mediterranean and brought to China for cultivation around 500 B.C.  The roots are usually oblong or cylindrical in shape, and have been grown up to 40-50lb large. In Japan, more daikon is produced than any other vegetable. Daikon is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family, which explains the slight kick you get you indulge in some.

Cultural info and Health/Nutritive Value:

Daikon has been used for centuries as a natural diuretic and “cleansing” agent. In China, the Daikon root is boiled into a tea to help with digestion. Chinese herbalists boiled Daikon with seaweed to purge the body of dairy build-up (makes sense something would be needed for this since most Asians are lactose intolerant)  and toxins.

Daikon radish is low in calories and high in enzymes that help to digest fat and starch, while also providing high amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and phosphorus. It’s commonly used by those who have GI/digestive problems like constipation, bloating, or diarrhea. It is not surprising then that the Japanese traditionally conclude a meal with two thin slices of sun dried or pickled daikon, to aid in digestion and to cleanse the palate.

If eaten regularly, daikon roots are believed to ameliorate symptoms of fatigue and hangover, prevent migraines, control blood pressure.  I cannot say I had a lot of luck finding peer reviewed articles supporting these health benefits, but then again, it’s not so hard to just try eating these guys regularly and seeing for yourself. I wouldn’t rely on just this if you had something more acute like you were in the middle of a migraine. But you can try if you have no other medication to help you and happen on a radish.

Flavor Principles and uses: 

Daikons are tangy and spicy but far milder than their European cousins, and in fact can be sweet like turnips, especially if roasted or cooked in dashi.This makes them perfect for salads, as well as soups and stews. They’re also ideal for pickling, whether by lacto-fermentation or the quick method.

They taste best when newly harvested but also store quite well, though the roots take on a stronger earthier taste- you may want to blanch roots in boiling water if they’ve been stored for a month or more before using them in salads or quick pickles. Daikon also goes well in sandwiches or paired with some sashimi or cooked fish.

Some people juice them, but consider balancing out the mild spice, tanginess, and earthiness with something a bit sweeter, like carrots and/or beets.

Recipes (Click on the photo) 

Avocado Daikon Salad

Avocado Daikon Salad

Turnip Cake with Daikon radish, tapioca flour base, fried onions, scalions, served with fig oyster dipping sauce

Turnip Cake (which is a misnomer, since usually it’s made with Daikon radish)

Pickled daikon and carrot

Pickled Daikon and Carrots (for Bahn Mi, salads, or sandwiches) (photo credit to: J. Kenji López-Alt, Serious eats)

More daikon recipes made by yours truly on their way, but in the meantime, you can enjoy some of my favorites I’ve come across:

Mark Bittman’s Gingery Chicken Daikon stew

Photo: Melina Hammer for The New York Times

  

Daikon with White Miso Sauce 

Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer

Roasted Daikon, Carrot and Pepper

Advertisements
This entry was posted in: roots, vegetables

by

I’m currently in the midst of my medical training, having completed my third year of medical school at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NY. Taking this year to do preventative medicine research and explore outside interests including mindfulness based training, cooking, photography, and web development. I find myself constantly in awe of the human condition, and the resilience many people are able to find within themselves during times of incredible duress or suffering. I am interested in continuing to learn about healing in its many different forms. I am certain there are many more therapeutic agents outside of what the medical establishment currently offers and accepts as standard of care. Whether a nourishing meal, a walk in a scenic landscape, a sitting meditation, or an FDA approved drug, I hope to learn enough to help those in need of healing find the most efficacious choice to restore wellness.