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Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus L.H.Bailey 1920
pronounced: RAFF-an-uss sat-EYE-vuss variety lon-ghee-pin-NAH-tuss
(Brassicaceae – the mustard family)
common name: Daikon, Chinese Radish
Raphanus was the Roman name for the radish; the word had been borrowed from the Greek ραφανις (raphanis), their name for the plant, which means ‘quickly appearing’. Sativus is Latin for ‘cultivated’. Our English word ‘radish’ comes, via the French radis, from the Latin word radix, a root. Longipinnatus is from longus, long, and pinnatus, feathered, winged (leaves are long and pinnate). The word Daikon comes from two Japanese words, dai (large), and kon (root).
This is a root vegetable said to have originated in the Mediterranean and brought to China around 500 BC. It bears little resemblance to the small, round red radishes we normally use in salads in Australia. It looks rather like a large white carrot, and can be up to 10 cm in diameter and 50 cm in length. More daikon is produced in Japan than any other vegetable, and there are many varieties to be found, depending on the region. The most common in Japan is the aokubi-daikon, which is the carrot-shape described above. There is also the turnip-shaped sakurajuma-daikon, which often grows as large at 50 cm in diameter and can weigh up to 45 kg. The flavour of daikon is quite mild compared with our normal radishes.
In Japanese cuisine, many types of pickle are made with daikon. It is also frequently used shredded and mixed into ponzu (a soy sauce and citrus juice condiment) as a dip, and in simmered dishes such as oden (a one-pot dish in which ingredients are slowly simmered in a soy sauce based soup). Daikon sprouts are used in salads and for garnishing, and the leaf is often used as a green vegetable.
In Chinese cuisine, chai tow kway (carrot cake) is made with daikon.
In Korea, a shorter, stouter variety is normally used, that is a pale green colour from the top to approximately half way down the root. It is used in kkakdugi, a type of kimchi with daikon substituted for the usual Chinese cabbage used in this traditional fermented dish.
In Pakistani cuisine, young daikon leaves are boiled and flash fried with a mixture of heated oil, garlic, red chilli and a variety of spices. The radish itself is often used in fresh salads.
In South India, daikon is the principal ingredient in a variety of sambhar, the dish, usually tamarind based, that accompanies almost every meal. Roundels of the radish are boiled with onions, tamarind pulp, lentils, and special spices, and mixed with cooked rice. This dish can give off a very strong odour.
Daikon is very low in calories and rich in vitamin C. It contains active enzymes that aid digestion, particularly of starchy food.
Photographs taken 2012, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 2nd February 2017