The other day I was at lunch in BCS (that is Bryan-College Station for all you non-Aggies out there) with several Masters of Horticulture.  We were talking about our gardens and I mentioned that my daikon were doing really well.  To my surprise, not a single one of these PhD Horticulturists knew what a daikon was.  I found this somewhat amusing but I guess if you do not eat a lot of Asian food, then you would have no reason to know about daikon. 

Sydney Pickle, Hannah Michna and Lindsey Pickle pull the first daikon of the year from the yupneck's garden

If you are not familiar with daikon, here is a little background.  They are a root crop much like carrots or parsnips.  In fact, the Japanese translation of their name means “large root”.  Daikon is a radish and it is a staple of Japanese food.  They cook it, pickle it, stir fry it, stew it and eat it raw.  The Chinese, Koreans and Indians also eat a lot of this spicy root.  The greens are also edible.  One reason it is so popular in the Far East is it’s storage capabilities.  Unbruised daikon can stay fresh for three months in a root cellar.  When dried, they can last much longer.  This allows the Japanese to have a ready supply of a vitamin C throughout the long winters.  There are more acres of daikon in production in Japan than any other vegetable.

There are two varieties of daikon.  One looks like a big turnip and can grow to 100 pounds.  However, the one that I grow is much more common.  Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus is a long white root that resembles a carrot.  It has white flesh and skin.  It can grow to lengths of 36” but is most often harvested when it is between 12” to 18” long and the diameter is between “1” and 2”.  Summer diakon have a sharper and spicier flavor than fall diakon.  Also, the taste of the daikon changes as you progress up the stalk.  The hottest (and most radish-ey tasting) part is near the tip.  The flavor becomes milder as you move up the root toward the greens. 

Daikon, Chinese cucmbers and volunteer zinnias in the potager

Daikon are very easy to grow.  They like rich, loose soil and full sun.  Plant at the same time as you plant other root crops.  They actually work best as a fall vegetable but do quite well in the spring.  Since they produce roots that weigh over a pound, a small amount of space will provide you with lots of radish. 

I work with several Indian and Chinese ex-pats so I grow enough to share.  This year, one of my friends took some home and had his wife make me pickles.  They are AWESOME!!!!  I have enjoyed these pickles so much that I am including the recipe here.  It is a simple and delicious recipe that will make a perfect side for all of your outdoor summer grilling.  Hope you enjoy!

Debbie Kwan’s Daikon Pickles

Slice the daikon and sprinkle with about 1 tsp of salt. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes.  Place in fridge and wait about 15-30min until water has been expelled.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water.

 Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup rice vinegar and 1/2 cup of water in a pot on low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool then pour over the daikon. The brine should cover the daikon. Add peppers of your choice to make it spicy.  Let it marinate in the brine for at least 1 day before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 weeks.

Garden Experiments

I love to experiment in my garden.  Every year, I grow something that I have never grown before or I try to grow an old stand-by in a new way.  This year, I am doing both.

My first experiment this year is potato boxes.  I am currently growing white potatoes (Kennebec) and new potatoes (La Soda) in wooden boxes that I “add to” as the potato plants grow.  According to the website that I found (http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/gardening/how-to-grow-100-pounds-of-potatoes-in-4-square-feet-081760), these 2’ X 2’ boxes can yield about 100 pounds of potatoes each.  While I am a little skeptical of these numbers, I will let you know how accurate that estimate is in a few weeks. 

One of my two potato boxes

The process for this is pretty simple (see the drawing below).  Basically, make four corner posts 33” long ( I used 4X4’s).  Cut two 1X6’s 24” long and two more 25 ½ “ long.  Screw them to the corner posts.  Place your seed potatoes (I used 12 whole potatoes) in the bottom of the box and cover with soil (I used mushroom compost).  As the plants grow, keep covering with soil or compost so that no more than 6” to 12” of plant is showing.  As the planting area gets full of soil, add another row of 1X6’s and continue the process until the box has sides that are 33”.  Once the box is full and plants are coming out of the top, you can remove the bottom layer of 1X6 and harvest as you need. 

 So far, my experiment seems to be working just as it has was described.  The Kennebecs are doing great.  I already have three layers of 1X6 in place and I will probably have to add another this weekend.  The new potatoes had a slow start but they are beginning to take off now.  I can’t wait to finally weigh my harvest and report my results back to you.

 I am also trying an experiment with my tomatoes.  Normally, I plant my tomatoes in my potager.  However, since I have decided to grow mostly herbs and flowers in the potager, I moved my tomatoes to the row garden.  While visiting with my friend Bill Adams, I learned that he grows his tomatoes in pure mushroom compost.  Since Bill is a true Master of Horticulture and the undisputed Tomato King, I decided to follow his lead and do the same thing.   I took my Mantis tiller and dug a furrow about 9” deep.  I then took my tomatoes out of their pots and placed them in the bottom of the furrow.  Next, I back filled with the compost and watered them in.  I am supporting them with a cattle panel and I gave the whole area a thick layer of straw mulch.  So far, everything looks like it is doing great.  I planted the same varieties this year as last so I will have some ability to judge which method did the best.  (Check out Bill’s book “The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook –http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-AgriLife-Research-Extension-Service/dp/1603442391). 

In addition to these two “method” experiments, I am  growing three new vegetable varieties this year.  The first are daikon radishes that were given to me by blogging friend “The Gracelss Gaijin”.  Daikon is a staple of Asian cuisine and I can’t wait to try them.  I am also growing “Chinese cucumbers” that were given to me by my friend Emy Chen.  This variety of cucumber is supposed to have a very mild skin that makes it great for slicing.  Can’t wait.  My final “new veggie” for this year is the “Tigger Melon”. 


I got my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (http://rareseeds.com/shop/).  Tigger is a small melon with very sweet, white flesh.  These one pound melons have a great aroma and taste and are perfect for a single serving.  However, the most exciting thing about this melon is it’s orange and yellow stripped skin.  This heirloom has such a cute name and attractive wrapper that my wife had her second graders plant it in their school garden.  Check back in the summer to find out how these experiments went.