“They’re finally gone!”
Spice Chef Josh Woo was relieved. The constant stream of several hundred pounds of daikon radishes grown this year on Spice Acres had finally ended.
Not that it wasn’t a delicious abundance, of course. Daikons are white Asian radishes, about ten times larger than the little pink buttons we slice into our salads. They’re a little peppery, and often used in cold plate preparations like sushi. A lot of farmers use daikons as cover crops, plants without much value at the table, grown instead to enrich the soil. Which they do well on Spice Acres — almost too well.
But why waste the roots once their farm work is done? After playing around with radish salads, Chef Woo hit on an old farm-to-table maxim: too much of a good thing? Pickle it. As a vegetarian, I’m happy for any alternative to roasted root veggies in the winter months, and pickled daikons are delicious, either with cheese and crackers, as a condiment, or added to salads. Chef Woo serves them on a brunch pickle board with biscuits, jam, and butter, and as an appetizer at dinner.
Best of all, they’re surprisingly easy to make. Woo’s daikons can be prepared in 15 minutes, and they are ready to eat immediately after they cool. The more thinly the radish is sliced, the better it will soak up the flavors.
Chef Woo’s Quick-Pickled Radishes
3 1/2 lbs. daikon, peeled and cut in rounds
1/4 C kosher salt
4 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp turmeric
2 C cider vinegar
2 C water
1/2 C sugar
Boil all the ingredients to dissolve the salt and sugar and pour over the daikon. Refrigerate.
Your kitchen will stink of vinegar after making these pickles, but they are worth it. If you want to step up your pickle game, try the fermented daikon, a long-fermented pickle, like a variation on kimchi.
1 1/2 lbs. daikon, peeled and cut in rounds
6 scallions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp chili flakes
Mix all the ingredients and let sit at room temperature covered with a cheesecloth for 12 hours. Transfer to a jar, keeping the daikon submerged in the liquid. Loosely cap and let stand for 6 days. Move to the fridge, and it’ll keep for weeks.