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Welcome to part 2 of my 5-part series on winter fruits and veggies! Today I’m singing the praises of daikon radishes, a variety of Japanese radish available all year but with the best flavor during cold weather.
Did you miss part 1? Check out what you can enjoy by adding persimmons to your diet this year.
Meet the Daikon
Daikon radishes bear little resemblance to the little reddish-pink orbs most of us picture when we hear the word “radish.” According to The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, this winter veggie can be up to three feet long and weigh as much as 100 pounds, although a size of 12 to 18 inches and a weight of 1 to 3 pounds is more common. No wonder they were given a name meaning “long root!” Also called a Japanese radish, the white root is firm, slightly watery and crisp with a light “peppery” flavor.
Daikon radish leaves are also edible and have a flavor similar to other leafy greens but with the zip you’d expect from a radish. You can find these vegetables at Asian markets, farmers markets and well-stocked grocery stores.
How Healthy is Daikon?
A 100-gram serving of daikon radish contains:
- 18 calories
- 37% of your daily intake of vitamin C
- 2 grams of dietary fiber
- Trace amounts of folate, copper and potassium
The same amount of greens delivers:
- 24 calories
- 400 milligrams of potassium
- 2.4 grams of protein
- Moderate amounts of iron
- Six times the vitamin C found in the root
As cruciferous vegetables in the same family as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, daikon roots and leaves contain sulfur compounds with multiple benefits for the body. The greens are slightly bitter and support healthy bile flow for better fat digestion and improved health of both the liver and the gallbladder. A compound called glucoraphenin makes sulphoraphene in the body, which in turn stimulates phase 2 liver detoxification pathways to help clear toxins from the body. Sulfur compounds are known to have anti-cancer properties, and if all this wasn’t enough, both the root and the leaves may also protect against inflammation!
Selecting and Preparing Daikon Radishes
When you’re ready to try daikon, look for smooth roots with uniform holes on the bottom and a color as close to white as possible. The radish should be heavy for its size and not have too much green on the root. Small daikon radishes have a milder flavor. Larger roots have more of a bite and a tougher texture. Extremely fibrous radishes may need to be peeled before eating, but try to avoid this if you can. As with many other vegetables, the skin of daikon radishes contains many beneficial compounds you don’t want to miss out on.
Once you have your daikon, try these tasty preparations:
- Pickled with carrots, two ways
- Diced raw in salads
- Sliced raw with hummus
- Boiled or roasted like turnips
- Stir-fried strips
- In Daikon moshi (radish cakes)
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods suggests sprinkling daikon pieces with salt after cutting and letting them sit for 20 minutes before cooking to keep them crisp. Rinse the salt off before adding to recipes.
If the radish comes with the greens attached, don’t throw them out! As long as they’re still green and not wilted, you can use them as you would any other bitter green. Cut them off the radish and store separately to prevent the root from becoming soft. Use leaves in recipes calling for greens such as dandelion, broccoli raab or kale, add them to salads or saute them with a little garlic and black pepper for a simple side dish. Cooking destroys some of the vitamin C, so try both raw and cooked recipes to get the most benefit.
What do you think? Will you be trying daikon this winter? Do you already enjoy it as part of your diet? Tell me about it in the comments!
Featured image: Dried daikon radish by Hidetsugu Tonomura, CC2.0 license, text added