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Daikon Radishes: What to Do with your Purple Roots

Updated: May 16

There are a handful of vegetables that I became intimately familiar with only after working for farms in Central Texas. Daikon radishes definitely fit this genre of vegetables. For years, I overlooked this crunchy root, only seldomly grabbing one and slicing it thin to top a salad…a totally acceptable yet unimaginative use-case. Maybe you’re still at the beginning of your relationship with daikon… you unpack your Vrdnt share, relieved to see carrots and excited to find lettuce, and then you hit the daikon. Sure, it’s beautiful and purple… splashes of magic in an otherwise green bounty, but what is there to do with daikon besides marvel at the hue? For so many corners of the world (like Japan, where daikon is the most-consumed vegetable), daikon radishes are as familiar as the cardinals crowding your feeder. Maybe you already know this root, possessing an intimate cultural understanding of how, and when, to integrate the vegetable into your cooking. Or maybe you’re asking yourself, “what should I do with daikon?”.

purple daikon and watermelon radishes

The answer? Quite a lot.

Daikon radishes - purple, white, green, and all the shades in between - are well suited to Central Texas. Some farmers (and ranchers) even use daikon as a cover crop. The strong and deep tap roots help loosen compacted soil and act as a living mulch. (Do you have some bare dirt in your garden? N

ow is an excellent time to throw out a handful of daikon seeds.) Daikon radishes grow easily, especially in Vrdnt’s sandy soil, and make EXCELLENT storage crops. Meaning: if you harvest daikon, remove the green tops, the roots can last for a good while in proper cold-storage conditions.

One of the reasons you’ll be seeing a lot of daikon in the coming weeks is because Farmer Becky, who spent most of her childhood in China and Thailand easily getting to know daikon, loves the vegetable. (Grow what you love, no?) The other reason? The hard freezes we had a couple of weeks ago. Several Vrdnt crops died in the freeze, a risk inherent in winter farming, but like a scrupulous squirrel, Becky and Co. were ready for the loss. The farm’s crop availability is currently buffered by the sizeable stash of roots in their cooler, which is safe from the harsh weather.

Most of the daikon Becky grows is purple, though around 15% of these purple daikon are actually white. “Genetics!” Becky texts me. All of the recipes below, however, are suited for any daikon color. Unlike spicy red radishes, daikon is

milder and slightly sweet. Like a carrot, you can eat daikon cooked or raw. Without any more dally, 10 daikon recipes.

1. Boiled Daikon

One of the easier dishes to make in this list. Tossed at the end with sesame oil, boiled daikon makes a fuss-free side dish. Oh, and if you’re not in the habit of sometimes using boiling water to cook your Vrdnt produce, might I recommend this Tamar Adler’s bit on boiling. When I first read it years ago and subsequently started boiling a vegetable from time to time, it brought a lot of ease into the seasonal cooking flow.

2. Korean Style Quick Pickled Radish

I don’t often watch an entire recipe video, but the cool guitar and easy-as-could-be quick pickle in this one kept me hooked. Do yourself a favor and make this quick-daikon-pickle. And if you’re familiar with the yellow-version of pickled daikon, Takuan in Japanese, or Danmuji in Korean, here is a recipe for that.

3. Radish and Potato Gratin

A dense and mild root, dare we suggest you make gratin of daikon, only. Still on the hunt for more daikon dishes? Think like a potato, and substitute there.