Today, I want to talk about a vegetable that many people haven’t heard of, but should because of how beneficial it can be to your garden. It’s the Daikon radish!
Also called a “white radish” or “winter radish,” Daikon radishes originate from Southeastern Asia where they are consumed in a variety of dishes. This same area is actually where all radishes likely came from. Unfortunately, there’s no archaeological evidence to prove this, but since the only wild forms of the plant were found there, it’s likely they were domesticated by the early inhabitants of the region. It wasn’t until later that the Greeks and Romans start document the different radish varieties. Daikon radishes were first cultivated in the Mediterranean, but it came to Japan in 1603. It soon became a staple in the area around ancient Tokyo and spread to China, Korea, and other nearby countries.
Benefits of Growing
Daikon radishes make for excellent eating, but they have many more uses in your garden beside salads and soups. One of their best qualities is breaking up hard, compacted soil. Daikons have very strong roots, so when you plant them in garden with hard soil, the roots can dig anywhere from a foot to two feet into the soil. Just by growing, they bust up the soil, allowing later plants to dig deeper in the soil for more nourishment. If you decide not to harvest them, they’ll decay to further condition hard soil as they compost. They’re the perfect natural solution for a garden with poor soil!
If you read my previous post about cover crops, you’ll that Daikons are also excellent for keeping down weeds in your garden over the winter. They also work well as a companion plant as they repel many insect pests. With all the benefits they bring to your garden, there’s no reason to leave them out of your garden plan this year.
You can plant Daikon radishes in spring as soon as the soil is workable for a summer crop. If you live in a temperate area, you can even plant them in winter for spring eating. When planting seeds (get them here), place them at a dept of ¾ inch and 6 inches apart. Be sure rows are at least 3 feet apart to give them enough space. While Daikon radishes prefer well fertilized soil, they’ll make due with poorer soil as long as they get an adequate amount of water. They’re fast growers and will mature in 60-70 days.
Pests and Diseases
Daikons don’t suffer from many ailments, but make sure to keep an eye out for downy mildew, and rust (read how to treat them here). They can also be vulnerable to root maggots, so keep an eye out for unexplained wilt and holes or tunnels in the root.
Don’t wait too long to harvest your Daikon radishes or they’ll end up only fit for the compost pile. Look for roots tops that are less than one inch in diameter. Greens should be eaten within a few days of removal, and roots can be stored without their leaves for a week before their quality starts to diminish.
You can eat both the greens and roots of Daikon radishes. The greens can be stewed, steamed, eaten raw in salads, or added to soups and smoothies. The roots can be pickled, sliced and added to sandwiches, tossed in stews, roasted, baked into cakes, and more.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Daikon radish and are inspired to try it in your next garden. Let us know if you have any Daikon stories in the comments!