Daikon, health, and nutrition
In China, it is said, “A daikon a day keeps the doctor away.”
In Japan, daikon is considered one of the “Seven Herb of Spring,” and plays an indispensable role in cuisine, culture, and health.
In well tended, natural, no-till beds, daikon will send tiny roots down 6 feet deep in the soil, pulling up many minerals and micro-nutrients that other plants may not have access to. Slow growing winter daikon is like a nutritional storehouse perfectly designed to get humans safely and healthily through the cold months of the year. Fresh, robust spring daikon has a reviving effect and can help shake off the lethargy of winter hibernation, while fast growing late summer daikon helps bodies ease out of summer and into fall.
Daikon is abundant in vitamin C; just 100 g contains 100% of the daily recommended vitamin C intake for adults.
Daikon is also well known as a source of the digestive enzyme amylase (a diastase), which breaks down complex starches into maltose. This enzyme is heat sensitive and is destroyed quickly when daikon is cooked, so eating daikon raw will allow you to take full advantage of it.
The presence of amylase combined with daikon’s high amount of dietary fiber makes raw daikon a great aid in digestion.
It is also effective against heartburn, hangovers, acid indigestion, and a general “heavy stomach” feeling,
The spiciness of the daikon has a disinfecting property, which is useful in fighting off colds and other winter illness.
To peel or not to peel? Peeling the daikon will result in a more visually appealing dish, and provide a more consistent texture, especially when eaten raw.
On the other hand, many of the nutrients are concentrated in the skin. For example, the skin has twice as much Vitamin C as the root, and it also contains vitamin P. Vitamin P strengthens capillaries and is said to be effective in helping prevent strokes.
The edible leaves have carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, and calcium. The leaves can be used in soups, stir-fries, or just lightly braised. Fresh spring daikon leave can even be eaten raw, though they may be a little tough.
Medicinal uses of daikon
Daikon plays an important role in traditional medicine in Japan, China, and Korea.
A wet compress using grated radish can help ease joint pain and inflammation
Juice from the grated radish is effective on pimples and acne inflammations when applied to the face after washing.
Sliced or grated daikon combined with honey makes an soothing cold and sore throat medicine. It can also be used as a compress.
Soaking juice from a grated daikon in a cotton cloth and applying it to the nostril can help relieve nasal inflammation.
How to store daikon
If properly stored, daikon can last for weeks at home. The root may become softer and more pliable over time, but it is still quite edible and delicious.
If the leaves are still attached when you buy the daikon, cut them off about 1 cm above the root when you get home.
Then, both the leaves and the root can be stored together, wrapped in a newspaper and kept in a
cool, indoor place.
If only using a portion of the daikon, wrap the cut end with plastic wrap and keep the rest of the daikon in the refrigerator.
Traditionally, daikon is also preserved by burying it in soil.
Pickling is another effective preservation strategy--daikon makes great kimchi, and is a welcome addition to sauerkraut as well.
If you aren’t planning on eating the greens right away, boil them lightly and keep them in the refrigerator.
The tastes of daikon
The flavor of daikon changes from leaf to tip.
The top, near the leaves, is usually the mildest and well suited to eating raw. There is almost no sharpness here.
The middle section tends to be sweeter and is usually said to be the best tasting part of the daikon, with an ideal balance of spice and sweetness.
The tip is the spiciest part and also contains the most dietary fiber. It is very good in pickles.
If you find the tip to be too spicy raw, it can be used in soups, stews, or simmered dishes, as cooking will remove much of the heat and bite.
The best way to discover the flavors of daikon is to cut one into thirds and sample from each of the three sections yourself.
Of course, spiciness will also differ with variety and season. For example, uncommonly warm winters and springs can cause a little more spiciness than usual in some daikon.
We like to grow the milder Japanese varieties of daikon, but Missouri’s wildly changing temperatures can sometimes produce unpredictable results, and occasionally we will end up with a spicy daikon mixed in with the mild ones.
The art of grated daikon
Grated daikon can be used in nearly every meal. A spoonful of grated radish with a dab of soy sauce mixed in makes a great garnish or topping for meat and fish dishes. We like to add grated daikon to soups just before eating. It is also a good ingredient for smoothies and vegetable juices.
Grated daikon is particularly good for digestion.
Leaving the skin on when grating will preserve more nutrients. After a short time, the vitamin C will break down, and the spiciness and flavor will fade. Daikon should always be grated immediately before use. Only grate as much as you will need at the time, use it all, and store the rest of the daikon for later.
To get the best results, hold the daikon perpindicular (at a right angle to the grater) and move in a steady, circular motion on the grater without pressing too hard.
Holding the daikon at a right angle to the grater will result in shorter fibers, which are more easily broken down while chewing.
Depending on the part of the daikon used and how it is grated, the spiciness of the grated daikon will vary.
If you like spicy daikon, use the tip and grate it forcefully in a linear motion. On the other hand, if you want a milder grated daikon, use the upper and middle portions and grate in a circular motion.
It is said that personality and mood will affect the flavor of grated daikon. For example, grating daikon when angry might make it spicier!
Strain the grated daikon in a wire mesh strainer to separate out the juice if you wish.
We love the beautiful simplicity of a grated daikon. Ancient vegetable, simple tool, mindful action: pure, delicious result. Use grated daikon anywhere, on anything. There are no limits.