Last week I was casually doing a little snack shopping at my local Kyoto supermarket when I unexpectedly came across WHOPPER of a vegetable! It was round with slightly translucent skin like a radish, but I’ve never seen radishes that big, so I assumed it must be a big-ass old turnip. I wish I had weighed it too, because as you can see in the video, it was actually hard to lift with one hand!
So I’ve been asking around the horticultural traps over the last week, and it turns out it is indeed a radish. But not any old radish, it’s a revered Kyoto radish called a Shōgoin Daikon.
So the story goes that in the early 1800’s, a Japanese farmer moved from a nearby province to Kyoto and started growing the ordinary long form of daikon near the Shōgoin Temple in the northwest of Kyoto city. But as you’d know, seeds have genetic variability, and one of this farmer’s seeds had a mutation which made the daikon round instead of long. But rather than discard this irregular daikon, the farmer kept growing it, eventually choosing to grow only this round type exclusively.
These days, the Shōgoin Daikon is mostly grown in the northern area of Kyoto prefecture called Tango, where heavy snowfall in winter reputably produces the best flavour. And it has become a much loved part of Kyo-yasai (京野菜), Kyoto’s specialty vegetable cultivars developed over hundreds of years, and now famed for their flavour.
The Shōgoin Daikon has a flavour which is milder and sweeter than standard daikon. It is dried and shipped all over Japan, and is perfect for boiling in dishes such as furofuki, because it retains its firm texture when boiled better than regular daikon.
Conversely though, it is also not as popular finely grated as ‘oroshi’ as you might have experienced daikon served – often in a little mound alongside fatty fish such as mackerel, its enzyme diastase aiding in the digestion of these fatty foods.
So there you have it! Mystery solved. But now I’ve started going down the daikon rabbit-hole of ‘whopper vegetable’ research you may well see more related posts coming up in the future, so be warned!
And I’m curious, have you ever had massive vegetable experiences overseas?! Do tell!