If you want an interesting culinary experience, plant daikon in your kitchen garden; then buy a Japanese cookbook and experiment with the multitude of recipes that use this distinctive vegetable. The daikon is the most widely grown of the Japanese radishes. It looks like a huge white carrot with a blunt end and has radish-type foliage. Other Oriental radishes come in a variety of shapes and colors including pink, purple and black, but the long, white daikon is probably the best flavored and most versatile. Technically, the daikon belongs to the same species as the common radish, but it produces roots up to three feet in length and four inches in diameter. Its flavor and texture are somewhat similar to that of the common radish. In this country, we tend to think of radishes as small, round, red roots that are found principally on the relish tray. In Japan, however, the daikon plays a major part in traditional cuisine. In fact, 20% of the Japanese vegetable crop consists of radishes. They are important ingredients in tempura and stir-fry dishes, and they are used in a myriad of pickle recipes. Of course, the daikon can also be eaten raw, as common radishes are, and most varieties are crisp and have a mild flavor. On festive occasions in Japan, daikon is carved into a variety of shapes and is used as a decorative garnish. Also, the Japanese use the foliage of young daikon seedlings as pungent pot herbs. Until recently, adventuresome Southern California gardeners who wanted to grow daikon were limited to planting it in the fall. Traditional daikon varieties are suitable only for autumn planting and will quickly bolt to seed if planted at other times of year. Now, however, a daikon variety has been developed that will produce well in fall, winter or spring. It's called Summer Cross, and it originally was developed in Japan by the Takii Seed Co., one of the world's largest plant-breeding firms. Summer Cross is now available in local seed racks that feature Burpee seeds. If you are unable to locate the seeds, they may be ordered from Burpee Seed, 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991. Summer Cross produces large, carrot-shaped roots that are exceptionally sweet, mild and crisp. Summer Cross is slightly smaller than the typical Japanese daikon. The best flavor is obtained if it's harvested before it attains a length of 15 inches. It matures quite early and is ready for harvest in about 45 days. Daikon requires a sunny location in your kitchen garden. It will also produce well in a deep container that's located in a sunny area of a patio or balcony. If it's grown in a container, however, it requires frequent watering and feeding. Other than having a longer growing period, daikon has about the same cultural requirements as the common radish. However, its soil must be worked deeper, and its seeds must be spaced much farther apart because of the large size of the plants. Prepare the soil by spading it to a depth of at least 18 inches. Unless you already have a loose, well-drained soil, work in large amounts of organic materials. Mix in an application of a balanced vegetable fertilizer, water thoroughly and allow the soil to settle for two days before planting. Follow the directions on the seed packet when spacing and thinning. Keep the soil surface slightly moist while awaiting germination. Once daikon is established, it is easy to care for. It can be harvested, without loss of quality, at varying stages of maturity. Unlike ordinary radishes, daikon stores well in the ground for up to a month after maturity; also, they can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator.
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame-seed oil
Slice radish into rounds. Mix together salt, sugar, vinegar and oil. Add radish slices to marinade; leave in refrigerator overnight.