Daikon Radish: Breaking The Rules, Not The Root

An early-season mistake turns into a win for this farmer.

by Aliza Sollins
PHOTO: Gary Stevens/Flickr

I didn’t even realize I was breaking the rules this past March when I planted daikon radish in spring. My top priority was planting carrots, but I mixed in the daikon seeds as a companion crop. I had read that early-sprouting radishes can be a great way to help mark the rows where slow-germinating carrots are planted. The radishes provide an early harvest, and they help with spacing out the carrot seeds more evenly.

In late May, as I was harvesting pounds of lovely daikon radishes, I looked around farmers markets in both Kentucky and Baltimore and was surprised to see a variety of little red radishes, but no daikon. Where were they?

Daikon Deviant

I asked a farmer friend who said that she always learned that you should plant daikon as a fall crop, not a spring crop. Oops! I guess I never got that gardening memo.

As I thought about it, I realized that we had a very cool spring here in Kentucky, which may have prevented the daikon from bolting and going to seed too quickly. While the cool, wet weather this spring delayed many local farmers from planting and slowed yields of early zucchini and peas, I got lucky and was even able to make a sale to a chef looking for locally grown daikon. Sometimes breaking the rules turns out OK.

Harvest Like A Pro

Here is a harvest tip to avoid breaking daikon while harvesting: Don’t pull straight up! You may snap the root in half and ruin your beautiful crop. Instead, grab the radish where it meets the soil, and twist the root gently as if unscrewing it from the ground. You may also want to wait to harvest until the soil is damp, which helps to release the roots. This should prevent any breakage, but don’t be too afraid to break the rules!

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