Daikon is a Japanese term, which when translated into English literally means a "big root". This root vegetable is also referred to as several other names subject to the context. Precisely speaking, daikon is a winter radish (scientific name Raphanus sativus). It has a mild flavour and is generally distinguished by it's rapidly growing leaves and an elongated white-hued napiform root.
Daikon is said to be native to Southeast or East Asia. People in these regions as well as South Asia harvest as well as consume this root vegetable extensively. These days, daikon is mostly grown in North America in the form of a fallow crop. While the roots of the plant are left unharvested with a view to avoid compaction of the soil, the leaves are sometimes harvested and used in the form of animal fodder.
A mild-flavoured radish, the shape of daikon is similar to that of a large carrot. The name of this root vegetable, daikon has its origin in two Japanese words "dai" denoting "big" and "kon" meaning "root". Daikon usually grows to a length of anything between 8 inches and 14 inches (20 cm and 35 cm), while the width of the root varies from 2 inches to 4 inches (5 cm to 10 cm). In fact, daikon definitely lives up to the meaning of its name "big root". Daikon is available in several varieties and they can differ from being spherical to cylindrical. Nearly all types of daikon are white in color. However, some varieties of the root vegetable may also come in yellow, pink, green or black.
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Daikon is a very popular root vegetable in the cuisines of Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam and even India. Daikon is known by several names, including winter radish, Japanese or Chinese radish, labanos, icicle radish, rabu, lobak and many others. It is believed that this radish originated in the Mediterranean region even before it was domesticated and transplanted in some regions of East Asia sometime before 500 B.C.
Daikon is ubiquitous in Japan and people in the Island nation prepare as well as serve this vegetable in various ways. Often, shredded daikon is served raw in the form of a flavouring in soups or to accompany other dishes. This root vegetable can be grated, dried up and pickled, in addition to being used in sushi. It can also be stir-fried and simmered. The fresh leaves of daikon as well as sprouts are consumed separately.
People in China often add daikon to a variety of dim sum dishes, including mooli cakes, which can be streamed or fried. In fact, mooli cakes containing daikon are a traditional food item that is served during the Chinese New Year celebrations. On the other hand, daikon forms a component of kimchi in Korea. Kimchi, a blend of vegetables, ginger, hot pepper and garlic pickled in vinegar, is Korea's national dish.
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In Myanmar (earlier known as Burma), people serve daikon in salads or in a pickled form. In addition, they also boil this root vegetable with fish sauce or use it to prepare soups. Daikon is known as muli in India. While some people use shredded daikon to stuff parathas - a type of flat bread oil fried in pans, in the regional cuisine of Punjab, it is also consumed raw in salads.
The Chinese radish or daikon has very low calorie content. A serving of half a cup (75 grams) of the raw vegetable supplies us with only 20 calories. At the same time, this root vegetable is an excellent vitamin C source. It is believed that consuming this radish helps in promoting digestion. The leaves of daikon are also a wonderful source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and essential minerals like calcium and iron.
Daikon or the Chinese/ Japanese radish has a preference for being planted deep in a rich, freely packed soil that is moist. This vegetable should be planted only after the soil has warmed up. The growing season of this vegetable is considerably long.
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One of the good things about daikon is that it is available throughout the year in the grocery stores. When you are purchasing daikon, you should opt for those that have a white, flawless skin and feel quite heavy as well as substantial when you hold them in your hand. In addition, avoid daikons that are withering or have cracks. Also ensure that the leaves of the vegetable are fresh and green. Avoid the daikon whose leaves have started turning yellowish. You can store this radish for a fairly reasonable period, provided you keep them in plastic bags and put those bags in a refrigerator. However, you need to separate the daikon leaves from its root before refrigerating the vegetable. The leaves of this vegetable can be stored at normal room temperature or you may use them soon after purchase, because they do not keep well in a refrigerator.
Daikon is considered to be a versatile food. You can consume this vegetable raw or prepare it in various different ways. Apart from boiling and stir-frying the vegetable, you can also bake, grill and broil it. When consumed raw, it is palatable and can be a novel addition to any type of crudites platter or cold relish. However, you need to wash the vegetable thoroughly, peel and cut the root vertically into julienne or thin slices. You may also add this vegetable to salads or slice it into chips or strips for relish trays.
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You can use daikon in the same manner as you use a common radish. Serve the vegetable raw or shred it for use in the form of a condiment. In case you don't possess a Japanese-style grater, you may also use a cheese grater and grate the vegetable just prior to serving it raw. Alternatively, you may also pickle daikon or simmer the vegetable in a soup. Some people also preserve daikon by salting it, as they make sauerkraut. Many people also use daikon in simmered dishes and soups.
You can prepare daikon by peeling its skin, in the same way as you would peel a carrot. Next, cut the root vegetable in any size that is required for the dish you plan to prepare. Apart from the root, the leaves of Chinese radish are also widely consumed. As the leaves of this vegetable enclose rich amounts of beta carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium, it is worth using them as a healthy food. Nevertheless, some people only consume the root and discard the leaves.
Like in the case of any other root crop, while purchasing daikon or Chinese radishes you should always look for roots that are without any cracks or bruises. In addition, they should also be solid and crisp roots. Chinese radishes will remain viable for long when you store them in a refrigerator. Place the radishes inside a plastic bag or a sealed container and keep them in a refrigerator to sustain high humidity levels.
Daikon as well as the juice extracted from daikon have both anti-bacterial and anti-viral activities and this makes it perfect for treating the problems related to the respiratory system. If you are enduring too much mucus or phlegm in the respiratory tracts, they can detain bacteria and promote their growth. Ingestion of daikon juice helps to clear up the phlegm and, at the same time, eliminates bacteria as well as other pathogens, thereby ensuring that your respiratory system remains healthy.
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It has been found that the juice extracted from daikon possesses enzymes that are similar to those present in the digestive tracts of the humans, counting amylase and esterase. These enzymes make it easier to digest complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins more effectively and transform them into similar manipulable compounds for the body to absorb easily. Therefore, ingestion of daikon juice helps to lessen constipation and, at the same time, augment the effective absorption of nutrients in the gut.
Since long, people are familiar with the diuretic nature of daikon. Hence, consumption of daikon extract promotes the frequency as well as amount of urination, thereby helping to keep the kidneys clean of toxins and waste substances and enhance their functioning to the optimal level. In fact, daikon juice helps to flush of accumulated toxins, excessive water and salts as well as fat, which comprise about 4 percent of our urine, from the body through urination.
Apart from being loaded with nutrients, daikon also contains specific antioxidant phenolic chemicals that have been found to be effective in reduce the development of several cancer forms, especially those related to the stomach. Daikon encloses a particular compound known as nitrosamine, which helps to put off the development of several carcinogenic substances.
Since daikon encloses elevated levels of vitamin C, it is perfect for sustaining as well as promoting the health of the immune system. It helps the immune system by encouraging the production of white blood cells (leucocytes) and also accelerates healing as well as repair all the cells and tissues present in our body. The leaves of daikon are known to be among the richest vitamin C source. Therefore, if you wish to boost your health, it is advisable that you consume a daikon leaf salad along with some daikon juice.
Findings of several studies undertaken on this herb have revealed that the anti-inflammatory compounds present daikon roots, leaves and the juice extracted from the roots can lower inflammation significantly all over the body. When inflammation is reduced, it results in a healthier heart, and reduced risks of developing arthritis. At the same time, the anti-inflammatory compounds also help to cure gout and alleviate pain and discomfort caused by strained muscles and injuries.
Similar to many other cruciferous vegetables, daikon also contains rich amounts of calcium - an essential mineral that is vital for the health of our bones. If you suspect that you are prone to developing osteoporosis or have already started feeling the pain of your age, you may include some daikon as well as calcium in your daily diet. It will not only help to improve the conditions you are enduring, but also retard the normal aging process.
As the vegetable contains low calorie and cholesterol levels and has an elevated nutrient and dietary fiber content, it is a wonderful food for weight loss. When you consume daikon, it provides you all the nutrients required by your body, while giving you a sense of fullness, which reduces your craving for food. Moreover, daikon does not increase the calorie consumption or cholesterol in your diet, making it an ideal food for those who are struggling to lose some extra pounds.
Compared to daikon roots and juice, daikon oil is a relatively rare substance. You may apply daikon oil onto the skin directly for effective anti-aging results. You can obtain similar results by consuming daikon normally, as the antioxidant attributes of this vegetable help to neutralize the harmful effects of the oxidizing free radicals. It is worth noting that free radicals formed in our body are actually damaging by-products of metabolism within the cells. Consumption of daikon or its juice can, therefore, help in withholding the natural aging process and prevent development of wrinkles, enhance the glow of the skin, improve blood and lymph circulation to the skin and also diminish the appearance of age spots and blemishes.