Daikon

Daikon radish is the most produced vegetable in Japan.  The Daikon radishes origins trace back to the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts.  It was approximately 1,300 years ago, that the Daikon radish found a home in Japan where it was popularized nationwide during the Edo period.  Daikon radish dry out shortly after being harvested.  To combat this, early farmers would dig ditches called Muro, the harvested Daikon radish was buried inside under a shallow layer of dirt and straw to help retain moisture.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the most popular vegetable in Japan is the daikon radish, beating out onions and cabbage.  Both the white roots and green tops are eaten throughout the year in many ways: raw, pickled, as sprouts, dried and simmered.  Daikon are available year-round, but winter varieties are thought to have the sweetest flavor, perfectly suited to hot, simmered dishes.

The most common use for daikon is so ubiquitous that it’s hardly thought of as cooking: daikon oroshi (raw grated).  Daikon oroshi is used as a condiment in many meat and fish dishes, as well as a refreshing addition to tempura sauce (tentsuyu) and soba noodle sauce.  This way of using grated raw daikon seems to have started in the Edo Period (1603-1868), when it was thought to aid digestion.  It turns out that this belief was right.  Daikon is an excellent source of the digestive enzymes diastase, amylase and esterase.  It contains high amounts of vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus. Daikon radish has been shown to help aid in the relief of migraines by opening up constricted blood vessels. These enzymes become much easier to absorb when the daikon is grated.  Grated daikon is good with a rich, oily fish — like mackerel — but it’s also great on steaks, hamburgers and other meat dishes.  It’s similar to horseradish, but less pungent.

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