Daikon sprouts are a variety of microgreen produced from the daikon radish; a long white root vegetable known for its mild spicy earthy flavor. Different than fast-growing red radishes, which are considered a summer crop, daikon radish is harvested in the winter season.
The daikon root (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus) is consumed throughout Southeast Asia and the Orient, where there are many regional varieties.
It is probably most well known worldwide for its use in Japanese cuisine. The generic term "daikon" actually comes from its Japanese name meaning "big root" (大根). One of the most famous cultivars is called the Japanese radish, and species like the Japanese minowase which are valued for roots that can grow over 2 feet long.
When the seeds are sprouted vertically to produce the first set of leaves, they are referred to as kaiware daikon (カイワレ大根). The term "kaiware" which translates "open shell" describes the shape of the leaves which have a heart-like shell appearance.
Daikon microgreens with their succulent green leaves with straight white stems are valued for gourmet use as culinary accents.
Originating as a microgreen variety in Japan, their peppery pungent flavor, resembling fresh daikon root, is utilized as a garnish in Japanese cuisine, salads, and sushi.
According to some sources, hydroponic commercial production of daikon sprouts began in the 1960s in Fukuoka Prefecture located in southern Japan. And, by the 1980s, they were widely available for most of the Japanese population.
In Japan, kaiware daikon are traditionally grown to produce very tall white stems. This is typically achieved by keeping the sprouts in a dark location until the very end of the leaf greening process.
These types are frequently sold growing upright on mats in small containers. And, next to alfalfa sprouts, they are today one of the most common commercial sprout varieties available in produce markets.
Likewise, there are several daikon sprout variations, depending on the seed cultivar. While the most common is the white stemmed variety, some modern cultivars have a red or purple pigmentation with darker leaves and a hot spicier taste.
What's the difference between a sprout and a microgreen? Although microgreens are sometimes referred to as "sprouts", technically speaking, a sprout is the first stage of development after the seed germinates and produces small green leaves.
Microgreens are grown for a longer period of time as well as vertical style on a soil-type medium, a sprouting tray, or a hydroponic mat. They therefore typically have long stems with larger green leaves and are harvested just before the "true leaves" emerge.
One of the reasons we often prefer microgreen tray sprouting to jar sprouting is that you basically get a larger volume of sprouts for the same amount of seeds.
Usually, if you love the taste of radishes, you will enjoy the zesty intense flavor-filled addition of daikon sprouts to meals, sandwiches, and salads. Because sprouts, in general, are not widely available in most stores, if you’re an avid sprout consumer, learning how to grow your own is essential.
One of the greatest benefits of sprouting or growing microgreens is the large quantity of produce you get from just a small amount of seeds. In addition, they make a great backup food resource if you live in an urban environment, on a sailboat, or don't happen to have space for a garden.
Pounds of seeds will store for years as they have a long shelf life and the sprouts they provide can be an emergency fresh food supply if needed.
We'll discuss below the newly discovered sulforaphene compound as well as other nutritional benefits of daikon radish sprouts, but first here is one basic method for growing your own microgreen-style sprouts at home which can also apply to many sprouting seed types.
Daikon radish sprouts are traditionally grown as a vertical sprouting microgreen rather than as a jar sprout, like red radish sprouts.
We’ll share the specifics about growing microgreens on hydroponic mats and coconut coir on another page, but here is one of our favorite methods for growing daikon microgreens that only requires the basics: a tray sprouter, seeds and pure water.
For this method, you don't need to have a constant supply of soil or other growing materials. But, you do need to initially invest in the Sprout Garden Sprouter trays, which are currently as of 2020 about $28 for 3 drainboard trays (7 inches in diameter) with 3 lid covers. These are one of the most popular re-usable sprouters for making homemade sprouts and are a worthy investment.
They are inexpensive, made of lightweight BPA-free plastic, easy to store, and are stackable during the beginning stages of seed sprouting. Most people use them instead of jar sprouting but we like to also use them for growing seeds as microgreens.
Note: Once you get down the basic growing technique, you might want to also consider using some type of hydroponic growing solution. We use a kelp seaweed solution measuring out 1 teaspoon to one gallon of pure water which we use in the initial seed soaking process and in spray bottles when spraying the sprouts.
Daikon and other radishes come from the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables and are botanically related to other spicy plants such as mustard, arugula, watercress, and horseradish.
These species owe their sharp pungent flavor to various sulfur-bearing isothiocyanates that are specifically released when the sprouts, leaves or vegetables are chewed.
All radish sprouts, both daikon and the red radish Raphanus sativus species, breakdown to form a substance known as SULFORAPHENE similar to the popular health-promoting sulfurophane or SGS compound found in broccoli sprouts. Instead of glucoraphanin, radish contains glucoraphenin which converts to the isothiocyanate, sulforaphene rather than sulfurophane. (Source)
Sulfurophene has been recently studied to also have beneficial properties.
In a study published in the Journal of Food Science, it was reported that radish sprouts contain significantly greater glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, and phenolic compounds compared to the mature radish root vegetable.
It is always best to purchase certified organic non-GMO sprouting seeds that have gone through thorough lab testing to avoid some of the food safety issues associated with low-quality seed sources. Here is a link to our favorite online seed supplier.