|Freshly harvested kabu waiting for dinner.|
|The standard daikon in all its glory.|
|Another spectacular daikon specimen.|
I so want to make carrot daikon pickles with this.
Wouldn't that just be beautiful?!?
|A Beauty Heart radish.|
A farmer friend in Aizu Wakamatsu, Takako Kimura, tells me that her summer daikon are different than her winter daikon. In summer, the plants tend to grow faster and be spicier, while the winter varieties take their time, growing sweeter with each passing day. Regardless of the season, we crunch on them raw in our salads, softened in soup, or dipped in miso as a favorite party snack.
|Hinonan kabu at the Earth Day Farmers Market.|
There are, of course, exceptions to the usual white varieties seen in stores. Kabu can also be red, the most famous of these that I've met so far being Hida Takayma's akakabu (red kabu), pink or some variation on these. They make an excellent pickle although I've eaten them raw in salad and not regretted a moment. Some varieties, like the Hinona kabu from Kansai, look more like a young daikon with their long thin roots.
Where the kabu exactly originated seems to be something of a mystery. Logic says that it evolved from an Indian ancestor that wandered around the globe over the course of the last millenia, adapting to climates and soils everywhere. European turnips turned rather stoic and tough in the face of winter, while the Japanese varieties clearly leaned toward the sweet and gentle. That's just my theory, though. Even within Japan a vast number of regional varieties exist, but they are not well-known. Don't be shy to ask after them when out and about or to outright purchase them. It's the buying and eating and storytelling of these vegetables that keeps them alive for future generations.
Next week: Recommended reading for the Japanese vegetable shopper