Whenever DB hears Daikon he only hears Diagon Alley, as in the wizard's shopping avenue from the Harry Potter series. But the alley and the radish are two different things. And for the latter, it can be grown in your garden instead of just envisioned in your imagination.
|Radish Spirit from Spirited Away|
Originating from the Mediterranean, this particular radish became a star of Japan. From the spread 1,300 years ago, more than 100 local varieties cropped up highlighting different textures, tastes, and shapes independent to a specific region. Today, more than 90% of daikon is produced and consumed in Japan. And this obsession is even reflected in the country's anime through the Radish Spirit character in Spirited Away. In the United States, California and Texas are the primary growers of daikon for specialty Oriental markets.
Similar to other monocultures, the number of varieties has been replaced by a hybrid meant to standardize growth and consistency with produce yields. That doesn’t mean that all is lost as local farmers and culinary institutes strive to maintain their country’s gastronomical history.
What does this mean for you the urban homesteader?
|Different radishes: (L) my daikon & (R) farmer's market|
That growing daikon radish is a rewarding endeavor, especially when considering heirloom varieties. Some grow just several inches others grow over a foot long with two foot wide foliage. Unlike other radish, these require a longer growing period of 60-70 days, best for a late summer sowing in warm climates (two months before first frost). If you live in the north like me, then feel free to start these in the spring with successive planting every two weeks for a continuous crop.
That’s great, but how do you eat it?
I prefer my daikon pickled, matchstick sliced with carrots. They’re great this way on Vietnamese dishes like Banh Mi or Būn and even rolled up in sushi. Whichever way you slice it, with the mild flavor, daikon can be treated like any other radish. Sliced or shredded over fresh salads. Created into little daikon cakes or chips. Or just added to stir-fry. It’s not that hard to come up with something useful for these delicious white tubers.
The leaves are already starting to fall and if you’re not doing a second planting this year then think about adding a cover crop to protect against soil degradation before spring. Another option is mix in compost and manure then top with mulch. This gives the soil a breather to build up much needed nutrients to grow next year’s bounty.
 Motoko Fukuda, “Japanese Radish,” The Tokyo Foundation: November 3, 2009, http://www.tokyofoundation.org/en/topics/japanese-traditional-foods/vol.9-japanese-radish (accessed September 28, 2013).