A white radish is a member of the radish family native to East Asia, where it has been cultivated for centuries. There are a number of ways to use white radish in cooking, in Asian recipes and recipes from further afield, and this food is often obtainable at big grocery stores and Asian markets. Enterprising gardeners can also cultivate this radish at home, as it grows very readily and is generally easy to handle.
This food is also sometimes known as the Chinese radish, loo bak, mooli, winter radish, labanos, Japanese radish, or daikon. In appearance, it resembles an oversized white carrot or turnip, with a tapering root and a spray of large green leaves. When a white radish is grown entirely underground, it will have a tender, crispy texture and a mild flavor. If the root is allowed to protrude above the ground, the exposed areas can turn green and slightly woody; a green-topped radish should be avoided, if possible.
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Several cultures believe this radish is a very effective digestive aid. Small plates of grated radish may be served with fried foods and other heavy dishes to help people digest the meal. This radish may also be offered as a palate cleanser, or used as a garnish. In Japan, people are more inclined to eat white radish raw in things like salads, while the Chinese tend to prefer to cook it in stir fries and other dishes. White radish pickle is also a popular condiment and snack in some parts of Asia.
Fresh white radishes are crispy and juicy, with a delicate flavor which can be quite enjoyable. When used in cooked dishes, they can be thrown in at the last minute to retain their crispy nature, or allowed to simmer for a longer period of time, depending on the taste of the cook. Grated white radishes are also used in the preparation of cooked dishes such as delicate fried cakes served around Chinese New Year.
Although white radishes are winter radishes, classically maturing in the fall and winter, they are often available year round. People who live in temperate climates where summer weather does not climb to high temperatures can to grow this vegetable. They should prepare the soil by fertilizing it and making sure that it will drain well, and plant out seeds or seedlings in mid summer. These radishes like to stay moist during their growing period, and they will need to be thinned to give the roots some room to grow. They can be harvested through the fall.