Daikon radishes in the garden and in the kitchen

How to grow and cook with daikon radishes.

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    What to do with daikon or Japanese radishes? One easy and tasty solution is a salad of baby spinach leaves topped with julienned daikon and mandarin oranges.
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Dad planted Icicle radishes in his garden when I was growing up, says Anne Moore, the gardener. I thought that these long, white, mild radishes were good to eat, even at my young, snooty age.

Nowadays, you will most likely find them listed as daikon radish. These radishes are also known as winter, Japanese, Chinese, Oriental, and many other names. They are long, white, cylindrical, and mild.

After I grew up, I pretty much forgot about white radishes. Then, a few years ago, I came across a packet of seeds for daikon radish when I was looking for fall and winter vegetables. I planted them somewhat late and harvested a few small radishes before the first frosts.

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The ground does not freeze in the midlands of South Carolina, where I garden, so I was able to leave them in the ground until springtime. That’s when I pulled out long, substantial, tender, mild, delicious white radishes.

Growing daikons in cold climates

If it does freeze where you garden, then you should try planting these delicious vegetables in July or August. They take about two months to mature. Check with your local University Extension Service for the best planting time for a fall vegetable crop in your area.

Daikon radishes are very slow to bolt (go to seed) in the hot, long days of summer. They will withstand heavy frosts if planted late in the season, although they do need at least 40 degree F. soil to germinate. You can also extend your growing season in cold areas by using frost covers on the garden beds, or by planting them in cold frames or greenhouses.

Plant the seeds a half to three-quarters of an inch deep into moist, deeply dug garden soil. Deep containers with wide tops will also make a good growing bed for daikon radishes, as they can grow to 18 inches long and 3 inches wide. Full sun is best in winter growing areas. If you are planting in summer, some shade would be of benefit. As soon as the seedlings have a second set of leaves, thin them to about two to four inches apart.

Use as you would any raw radish. I like them in recipes in place of the more bland water chestnuts to add a little zip.

Daikon in salad, a nice combination

This creamy white radish is much milder than the salad variety of radish, and because of this milder flavor, it is easy to integrate into other foods to add more flavor and texture, says Linda Weiss, the chef. It’s a nice addition to a salad or a stir-fry.

This recipe is versatile. After using spinach for the greens, I added mandarin oranges , sliced green onions, and toasted almonds, along with the daikon, but you can use your favorite salad greens, and replace the mandarin oranges with shredded carrots, pears, apples, or any other vegetable or fruit that will complement the daikon.

Since I always have soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and honey in my pantry, it was pretty easy to whip up a dressing. To serve the salad, I layered the greens, oranges, daikon, onions, and almonds on a large platter and poured the dressing over the salad. Just toss it lightly before serving.

If you use spinach for the salad and have a little salad leftover, you might want to consider a quick stir-fry to wilt the spinach, and now you have a whole new dish!   

Salad With Daikon

1 cup julienned daikon (see * below)

8 cups baby spinach or your favorite salad greens

4 to 5 green onions including tender green stems, sliced into ½-inch pieces

1 cup mandarin oranges, sliced apple, or sliced pear

1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds

*Slice daikon on an angle and then cut into julienne. Place the cut daikon in a strainer until ready to use. This will allow the moisture to drain.

Place baby greens on a large platter. Add green onions, oranges, daikon, and almonds. Prepare dressing and pour over the salad, toss, and serve. Serves 4 or more.

Dressing:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or to taste

Sprinkle of salt

Mix together with wire whisk. Pour over salad.

Editor's Note: To read more of Anne and Linda's "how to grow and prepare" series, click here.

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Linda Weiss and Anne Moore met while Linda was the food editor and Anne was the garden editor for South Carolina Homes & Gardens magazine. They now write articles for the ETV GardenSMART television show website, where Anne is the horticulture editor, gardening consultant, and e-newsletter editor. Anne has written for magazines and newspapers. She is a member of and a recipient of a Silver Award for magazine writing from the Garden Writers Association. Linda is a personal chef. She attended Le Cordon Bleu of Paris’ catering program, has appeared as a guest chef on numerous television shows, has been a culinary educator for 10 years, and a food writer for a number of magazines. She is a professional member of The James Beard Foundation and the Southern Foodways Alliance. She has written a cookbook, "Memories From Home, Cooking with Family and Friends."

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