Farmers' Market Spotlight of the Week: Daikon Radishes, Locally Grown by Congolese Refugees

Cooler temperatures mean that the City Hall Farmers Market is open once again and that more Houstonians will be heading out to enjoy the many other excellent farmers' markets across the city. Each week, we'll be spotlighting a produce pick from the Urban Harvest network of farmers' markets by showing you how to select it, what makes it special and what to do with it.

Even if you've never heard of a daikon radish before, chances are you've had one. It's usually found julienned and pickled alongside carrots atop most banh mi sandwiches -- but the thick, white radish can be used for so much more than just sandwich topping.

And this week at the HCC Southwest Farmers Market, you can stock up on the radishes while supporting a terrific cause: Plant It Forward Farms, which works with Congolese refugees and -- according to its mission statement -- provides them with "an opportunity to become self-sufficient through growing, harvesting and selling produce from a sustainable urban micro-farm within the city of Houston."

"Plant It Forward Farms is one of our newest vendors at our farmers' markets," says market manager Tyler Horne. The nonprofit can be found farming in Westbury, where the group leases three acres of land from the Braeswood Assembly of God, and daikon radishes are just part of their weekly harvest.

"This past week was their first harvest for sale and they were so excited to be a part of the HCC Southwest Farmers Market on Friday," said Horne. "They will be there again this coming Friday from 3 to 7 p.m." And they'll have plenty of radishes.

Says Horne of the vegetable: "Recipewise, the daikon is pretty versatile. It is a staple vegetable of Japanese cuisine, with recipes utilizing the pickled form of it known as takuan in rice and sushi. I personally treat them like a huge radish and like to cut them up raw and put them in salads, or cut them into big chunks and roast them like any other root vegetable."

Other options include incorporating the daikon into kimchi you're making at home, or into any other pickled, brined or fermented mix of veggies. Imagine how good daikon would taste in a giardiniera, for example. And if you have a mandoline, you can shave thin ribbons of radish and use them in place of lettuce or spring roll rice paper to make Asian-style wraps.

Since the radishes are sold with the greens still attached, you can even use those. They're a tiny bit spicy, just like the radishes, and taste great when steamed lightly and used in place of spinach, Swiss chard or kale. With something as versatile as the daikon, the possibilities are nearly limitless.

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Katharine Shilcutt