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Daikon is not yet a famous ingredient here in Italy. Not all foods are known by the same name around the world. An emblematic example is the daikon. Literally, the name can be translated as “big root,” but in various countries it has also taken on other names. Here, it is customary to call it Chinese radish (or Japanese radish, depending on the variants).

It originated in southeast Asia, and hundreds and hundreds of years ago, its consumption started right here. We were talking about names; the most common is the English daikon radish, but some call it white radish, winter radish, oriental radish, or even long white radish. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it is officially called oilseed radish.

The daikon can reach 1 metre in length and 45 kg in weight

Daikon yields carrot-like white roots that typically grow to a length of 35 cm and a width of 10 cm, but there are enormous varieties in Japan that grow to a height of 1.5 metres and a weight of up to 45 kg! Usually white in colour, there are other colourful varieties as well, including the light green kind found in China that resembles a potato in shape.

Depending on the variety, it can withstand different climates: the Chinese and Indian ones, for example, tolerate high temperatures, while the white radishes that grow in Japan or East Africa need milder climates. There are variants suitable for European climates; in fact, productive crops can be found in England.

Daikon also helps other crops

Daikon, unlike other roots, which require a long time to mature, grows very quickly. The root can be stored for several weeks if kept in a cool, dry place; however, those stored in unsuitable places deteriorate very quickly.

By digging into the soil, the daikon collects soil nutrients at a considerable depth, and it is a root that goes well with legume crops that only need a few centimetres of soil to grow. Furthermore, in the case of particularly harsh winters, the root decomposes, releasing rich nutrients that help all other crops.

It has many uses in the kitchen

Daikon can be used in many dishes. Each cuisine has its own preference, so it is difficult to make a general statement on how it can be eaten.

In Japan, it is used to prepare brine or to give flavour to soy sauce. In China, daikon is used as an elaborate garnish for high-end dishes or in soups and stews.

In Korean cuisine, this root is boiled and eaten in pieces as an additional ingredient for salads. In Vietnam, however, it is often consumed as a condiment for some types of sandwiches.