The Local Food Report: the Daikon

I love the Internet. When I first sat down to research daikon radishes—the very large, very thick satiny white carrot doppelgangers I met at the Falmouth Farmers' Market the other day—this is what I learned from Answers.com:

Q: How can you tell if a daikon radish will be hot or mild?

Relevant answers: 1) You generally know if you are "hot" if you physical appearance and behavior seems attractive. 2) Your complexion may be clear, you may not be very fat, you may get many dates. And, 3) The daikon radish greens are edible. 

Totally relevant, and good to get those sorts of things cleared up. At any rate, I have since learned that daikon radishes as a lot are actually fairly mild, and that this is because it's really the hot summer weather that gives radishes kick, and these aren't harvested until late fall. By then, things have cooled down, both in the spice sense and in the climate sense.

To back up, if you've never met a daikon radish, they are an incredibly large kind of radish that Americans generally associate with Japan. They actually found their way to Japan via China about two thousand years ago, and they're incredibly popular all over Asia. They're also called mooli in Britain, and they're used in Asia in all sorts of dishes. They're particularly popular in the winter when they provide a much needed source of Vitamin C. And yes, you really can eat the greens. 

I saw my first local daikon at the Falmouth Farmers' Market the other day, chatting with a guy at the Silverbrook Farms stand named Steve. He said he doesn't really like vegetables, but that other people seem to really like these, in particular his Asian customers in Boston. They chop them up and put them into EVERYTHING, he told me.

I did some looking around on the Internet, and it seems that he is right. There are daikon pickles and daikon slaws and cakes made with daikon and saag with daikon leaves

The time to eat them is now. I don't know of many people who grow them locally, but I did see a Facebook post announcing that a vendor at the Plymouth Winter Market would be selling them, and I found this article about a man in Harwich who grows them. And of course there's Silverbrook Farm. And speaking of winter markets, there's also one in Sandwich, East Falmouth, and you can catch the end of the season in Mashpee. For markets further afield, click on over here


Posie said...

Hi Elspeth! We wrote a story at work today about a really excellent Japanese daikon recipe (the cookbook is really great if you haven't seen it), it is very good and everyone raved over it, I would really recommend trying it: http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/national/11606/good_taste/Hiroko_Shimbo_marries_Japanese_and_American_cuisines_in_her.htm

LOVE reading your blog, as always!

Elspeth said...

posie, yum! this looks so good. hope all is well with you!

xo elspeth

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