Guest Author - Chidori Phillips
Japanese chefs love to add daikon radish sprouts (kaiware daikon) to sushi, soups or salads to add crispness and balance flavors. These wispy long sprouts have a peppery bite that is a good contrast to subtler ingredients. Often, you’ll see kaiware daikon garnishing tofu and sashimi and peeking out from temaki (hand roll) sushi.
Unlike thick mung bean sprouts that are harvested before they grow leaves, daikon sprouts have white, thread-like stems with tiny green leaf caps. Store-bought daikon sprouts come with the root ends still attached to the growing medium which usually is a type of synthetic sponge. Without this moisture-holding mat, the sprouts would dry out quickly.
Growing sprouts at home is easy. Moisture, warmth, oxygen and sometimes a little bit of indirect sunlight are all that is needed. A few types, like mung beans, can be grown in darkness. Buy your sprout seeds from a reputable source for better chances of sprouting. There are different sprouting vessels you can use. The simplest is a glass jar with a piece of cheesecloth held in place over the jar opening with a rubber band. Then there are more elaborate sprouting tray systems that will put out a steady stream of sprouts with staggered startings. Direct sunlight can overheat or dry out the seeds so take care where you place them.
Because daikon sprouts have such thin stems and look best when they’re growing in the same direction rather than all tangled, use a piece of inexpensive sponge cut to fit the bottom of a glass or plastic container to anchor the seeds. They’ll all sprout upwards as opposed to in scattered directions. Here are step-by-step instructions:
How to Grow Daikon Sprouts
1. Soak the seeds in water for at least 8 hours (better overnight). If using a glass jar, soak only about 1 tablespoon of seeds. Air needs to circulate and overcrowding can lead to mold. If using a larger tray, use about 1-2 tablespoons of seeds per every four square inches.
2. Select a clean sprouting vessel (glass jar, plastic bin, sprouting trays).
3. Cut a piece of large-holed sponge, open hemp/linen/mesh or other loosely woven fabric to fit the bottom of the sprouting vessel. Be sure the sponge is not treated with any chemicals or cleansers.
4. Moisten the material with water and lightly squeeze out the excess. Do not wring it dry!
5. Drain the soaked seeds and spread them out onto the fabric. They will adhere as they sprout.
6. Cover the vessel with cheesecloth and place in a warm place in indirect sunlight.
7. Every 12 hours, carefully rinse the contents with clean water. Be careful not to wash away the seeds or break the roots once sprouted.
8. Drain well as excess or standing water causes rotting.
9. Harvest when the sprouts reach the desired length. Daikon sprouts usually are harvest after they develop a tiny green leaf. It takes about three to five days for the seeds to sprout
Other types of seeds may be sprouted for eating. Broccoli and pea sprouts are my favorites. Mung beans are easiest because the roots are thick and hardy; they can be grown in a jar or in a burlap sack. The latter allows for a larger crop. And because they’re harvested before they develop leaves, they don’t need sunlight.
Despite their easy nature, sprouts can succumb to the following problems:
1. Poor airflow. Rotting and mold develops. Usually the result of too many seeds in the container, too tight a covering, too much water or insufficient tossing during the rinse and drain process.
2. Contaminated water or jar. Bacteria will proliferate in this moist, warm environment.
3. Temperature is too hot. Seeds will dry out or cook in the heat.
4. Too much water. Seeds will not receive oxygen necessary for sprouting.
5. Too little water. Not enough rinsing will cause the seeds to dry out.
6. Old or damaged seeds. Seeds have a poor rate of germination after five years of storage or if kept in undesirable conditions.
To harvest daikon sprouts, use kitchen shears to cut them near the roots. Rinse gently, pat dry and use them in salads, soups, sushi and as an edible garnish.
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