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)
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: